October 28, 2011

Demolition crew gives it his best shot

An impressive tracking shot of an exploding building won Guild of Television Cameramen member Michael Brennan the Best Risk Shot category at the Golden Eye 2011 International Festival of Movie and TV Cameramen, held in Batumi, Georgia.

The low-angle slow-motion shot of a large building imploding, for Demolition, a documentary series for LWT and Discovery, was captured at 500 frames per second using a film camera built into a bomb-proof case.

Although the case was made of laminated steel with an internal frame and ten millimetre polycarbonate front cover, even the strongest of boxes would be crushed under the thousands of tons of rubble which fell onto it.

Brennan (pictured above) came up with his own explosive way to pull the camera out of harm’s way while allowing it to capture the explosion, without it being damaged or buried under rubble. He organised a track, made of scaffolding tubes and purpose-built crossbars, secured to the ground with 30cm spikes. The dolly was powered by bungee cords, like a huge bow and arrow, triggered by two separate explosive charges attached to a tether. The dolly and payload weighed 120kg and ran at 51kph for 46 metres.

"Full credit is due to Director Michelle Carlisle for sticking with my idea of tracking a camera from the base of the building as the building fell, and to my camera-assistant Johann Perry and Controlled Demolition,” said Brennan, who is based in Melbourne and London.

“The shot was in the back of my mind after I had successfully captured numerous implosions with cameras in innovative angles inside and on top of buildings - and I still have a few tricks up my sleeve for more interesting angles," he said.

The GTC is an independent non-profit-making international organisation that cares about TV camerawork and the people who make it their craft., with more than 1,000 members worldwide, in Europe, Australia, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and the USA.

By David Fox

October 24, 2011

GoPro HD Hero2 goes live

The new GoPro HD Hero2 camera is much improved, with an 11-megapixel sensor that should perform better in low light, a higher-quality wide-angle lens, and the possibility to stream live video via WiFi.

The original HD Hero has been widely used in broadcasting, as it can fit anywhere, comes with a waterproof housing, and costs so little, so the improved model should be very popular with programme makers.

The HD Hero2 costs $299 (coming in kits with mounts suitable for motor sport, water sports, and other action uses)

Improvements include a 2x faster image processor and 2x sharper glass lens, but for live events probably the most interesting addition is the upcoming, waterproof Wi-Fi Remote and the Wi-Fi BacPac (which fits to the camera). The Wi-Fi BacPac also enables remote control via a smartphone, tablet or computer running a free GoPro app.

Besides the ability to remotely control up to 50 GoPro cameras (including the original HD Hero), the WiFi features will also deliver a live video or photo stream (Hero2 only).

The live video will be useful to see what the GoPro is looking at, as setting one up has often involved a certain amount of guesswork.

Other new features include: a simpler LCD interface; a mini-HDMI port; an integrated battery warmer, to enable longer battery life in low temperatures; and a 3.5mm jack for an external microphone. The lens can be switched between a wide-angle 170º field-of-view, a medium 127º and a narrow 90º FoV in 1080p and 720p video, and between 170º and 127º for photos.

It also boasts "much improved low light performance" and can capture up to ten 11-megapixel photos in a one second burst, and deliver automatic time-lapse photos with a half-second interval between photos, making it useful as a stills camera for action sports.

The original 1080p HD Hero, launched in 2009, remains available, but at a lower price, listing at $199.99 – $239.99 (compared to $259.99 – $299.99 previously).

By David Fox

October 21, 2011

Half-price Edius aims for Final Cut

Grass Valley is aiming for dissatisfied Final Cut users, as well as owners of Adobe Premiere and Avid Media Composer, with a half-price competitive upgrade to the latest version of its Edius HD editing software.

It will sell the Edius 6 non-linear editing software for €299 ($399), until the end of the year, to users of its main competing systems.

“This activity is being sparked by Apple's recent dramatic changes to the Final Cut editing product, but we thought that Avid and Adobe customers should benefit too,” said Charlie Dunn, Executive Vice President of Products for Grass Valley.

“We’re committed to the professional production marketplace for the long term and will continue to advance the program’s many capabilities for the benefit of our customers, and anyone that wants to produce high-quality content faster and more efficiently.”

Edius only runs under Windows, which would mean that FCP users would have to, at least, buy and install the Microsoft operating system on their Macs (unless they buy completely new Windows hardware), but there has been a lot of criticism from broadcast users of Apple's rebuilt NLE, and, despite a recent upgrade to FCP X that addressed some concerns, rival manufacturers have spotted an opportunity to gain market share from Apple's best-selling NLE.

The latest version of Edius (version 6.05) brings new video file formats and hardware-assisted H.264 encoding. It also supports both 50p and 60p file import, allowing for a smoother workflow within Edius 6.

For users of Intel’s Second Generation Core Processor, Edius has extended support for Quick Sync Video Hardware H.264 video encoding of MP4 files to complement the AVCHD acceleration introduced in version 6.02. Users will gain faster than real time encoding of videos for iPhone, Play Station Portable, as well as H.264/AVC videos up to 1920x1080p50/60.

By David Fox

DaVinci Resolve 8.1 upgrade

The latest version of Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve (8.1) includes a several significant improvements, including support for Apple Final Cut Pro X XML and Avid AAF round trips 

Resolve 8.1 also includes new layer node composite effects, ACES colour space support, Final Cut Pro 7 clip size and position support, new copy commands for grades, upgraded EDL features, support for Blackmagic's own UltraStudio 3D Thunderbolt interface and compatibility with the 2011 MacBook Pro 15-inch computer.

Resolve can now import and export Final Cut Pro X timelines using the new Final Cut Pro rich XML file format. When working in Final Cut Pro X, users will get full timeline round trip where projects can be moved between FCP X and Resolve, retaining the multi-track timeline with frame accurate cuts, dissolves and even speed changes. Resolve will also use rich XML from FCP X to link to original camera footage and supports full media management for FCP X projects including additional source clip folders and alternate image source when conforming edits in Resolve.

Because Resolve supports grading of high resolution and bit depth files, edits can be exported out of Final Cut Pro for finishing in the highest quality. An alternative workflow is to use Resolve 8.1 to manage extremely high resolution raw image formats such as Red, Arri, CinemaDNG and DNxHD and then to grade and render to ProRes or uncompressed media for FCP X.

Resolve 8.1's layer node composite effects offer colourists greater creative control of grading with add, subtract, difference, multiply, screen, overlay, darker and lighten effects. Colourists will be able to use these composite effects to create much more complex and intricate grades.

For high-end feature film work, Resolve 8.1 includes ACES colour space support. ACES and IIF is a new colour space and file format promoted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences technology committee to provide a universal and open image interchange and processing format. The ACES IIF file format is fully supported, and includes a variety of IDTs and ODTs as well as support for 3D shaper LUTs. Resolve 8.1 allows colourists to work in this format seamlessly, and even the cut-down, free of charge DaVinci Resolve Lite includes ACES colour space, so upcoming videographers will have access to the latest Hollywood technology.

To improve compatibility with Avid Media Composer, Resolve 8.1 has improved support for Avid AAF import/export for roundtrip editing to Resolve and back to Media Composer. This AAF support includes effects such as dip to colour, edge and centre wipe with border, clock and venetian blind wipe and also cross, oval and diamond iris wipe, overlay composite and more. It also includes support for Avid sizing with pan, tilt, zoom and rotate.

Additional support is included for Final Cut Pro 7 round tripping, with clip-by-clip selectable import of image sizing data now possible. Import sizing and position data for all or selected clips is available to allow renders using the high quality Resolve image resizing engine.

New cut, copy and paste operations for editing and node metadata including dynamics have been added, allowing much easier and faster editing of clips in the timeline and copying grades between nodes. Resolve 8.1 also includes new conform features including the abilities to export missing clips EDL and import new EDL to a track. This simplifies finding and replacing missing clips in long form projects, and is great for changing VFX shots. The update is also faster to use with a new 'hover over node' grading status display to reveal lists of changed grades within the node.

There is additional hardware support, including full compatibility with the Apple 2011 MacBook Pro 15-inch laptop with 1680x1050 display, as well as the new UltraStudio 3D for computers with Thunderbolt interfaces, allowing video monitoring and deck I/O from the latest iMac and MacBook Pro computers.

Other new features include: support for clip-by-clip scaled or unscaled data range colour space conversions; support for clip-by-clip colour space selection in case a source clip has been incorrectly encoded; renders now support video or data levels; and support for HDR source icons in the timeline thumbnail for Red HDRx clips.

The update is available as a free download to users of Resolve 8.

By David Fox

October 18, 2011

Petrol Deca Lightweight Audio Bag

Petrol Bags' new Deca Lightweight Audio Bag (PS614) is a lightweight professional audio bag to transport sound equipment comfortably, and keep it safe, organized, and accessible while working.

Weighing 1.2kg (2.6lbs), the bag can accommodate an SD 788 mixer with CL8 controller attached and is padded to safeguard contents. Removable internal dividers offer custom configuration. There is free access to all mixer panels – side, back and top. A transparent top window allows viewing of controls.

Drawstring openings on both sides offer full access for connector cables to devices in the bag’s front and rear compartments.

Additional features include multiple storage pouches for an MP1 battery, connectors, etc., an external front accessories pocket, two expandable snap-on pouches to hold transmitters or wireless receivers, and a padded, adjustable shoulder strap.

The bag interior measures: 29.5cm (11.6-inches) long, 10cm (3.9-inches) wide, and 19cm (7.5-inches) tall. The exterior measures: 35cm (13.8-inches) long, 22cm (8.7-inches) wide, and 23cm (9.1-inches) tall. It will be available in December at €160 list (£138).

By David Fox

Canon EOS-1D X filmmaker’s DSLR

HD DSLRs have been hugely popular, partly because of their low cost, but also because of the creative possibilities of the large sensor and shallow depth of field. Now Canon has announced its next generation DSLR, the EOS-1D X, which is positioned as "the film-maker’s DSLR" and addresses most of the main problems video users have with its 5D Mark II and 7D cameras.

It will allow users to record full HD movies from its full-frame 24x36mm CMOS sensor with a full range of manual settings to control exposure, focus and frame rate - 1920x1080 at 30 (29.97), 25 and 24 (23.976) frames per second, or 1280x720 at 60 (59.94) and 50fps, plus SD video in PAL or NTSC.

Sound levels can be displayed on the 3.2-inch 1.04million-dot LCD screen and adjusted during a take. It also has SMPTE Timecode (Rec. Run and Free Run), so you can synch it with other cameras or audio recorders.

It will use a new H.264-based intra frame (ALL-i) video codec to maintain higher video quality (and to be more edit friendly), limiting compression to retain more information for post-production – although it appears that it is still 8-bit video (.MOV files). Canon hasn't yet revealed what bitrate it will use, but anything less than the 50Mbps required by most broadcasters for HD (and offered by Canon's XF range of video cameras) would be a disappointment (and the only, unconfirmed, report there is about the bit rate is that it will record six minutes on a 16GB card, which is about 44Mbps). There is also an interframe IPB long-GoP compression option.

Dual Digic 5+ processors

It has dual Digic 5+ processors that work to reduce moiré artefacts, rolling shutter effects and chromatic aberration. There is no line skipping, which will also help deliver a cleaner picture. The new Digic 5+ processor is 17x faster than the Digic 4.

The camera also offers longer recording, automatically creating a new file once the 4GB file limit has been reached, which allows it to record for up to almost 30 minutes at a time (up from about 12 minutes before the 4GB limit kicked in). The new 29 minutes 59 seconds limit is due to EU levies on video recorders, which would result in about a 30% price increase if it recorded for 30 minutes or longer. It has two Compact Flash card slots for recording.

The sensor has much improved light gathering capabilities and wider dynamic range (the individual pixels are 0.55 microns larger than those on the 5DMkII's sensor, with gapless microlenses for enhanced light gathering efficiency, higher sensitivity and less noise at the pixel level). 

The ISO range for movie shooting now runs from ISO 100 to 51,200 (for stills it can be expanded to go from 50 to 204,800). In the sample EOS-1D X movie on the Canon website, the video was recorded at ISOs up to 25,600 with no appreciable noise – at least not viewable at the resolution the video is shown at.

There is also a dedicated Digic 4 processor for the metering system, which also handles face detection and colour to ensure correct exposure levels and improved auto-focus tracking, using a redesigned 61-point focusing system.

It has a Gigabit Ethernet port (above - top right), which could mean it can download video remotely and enhance its remote control capabilities, but exact details of what this might enable for video weren't revealed.

The EOS-1D X is also Canon's top-end stills camera, replacing both the 1Ds Mark III and 1D Mark 4, and shooting 18.1-megapixel images at up to 14 frames per second. It will cost about $6,800/£5,299/6,299 when it ships at the end of April [UPDATE - now expected mid June 2012].

EOS milestone

Canon produced its 50-millionth EOS-series SLR camera in September (having made 10 million EOS cameras in just 16 months), and expects to have manufactured 70 million of its EF lenses by the end of October (producing 10 million in a mere nine months) – it started manufacturing both ranges of cameras and lenses in 1987.

Related posts: Canon EOS-1D C DSLR for 4K video + Canon EOS 5D Mark III launched

By David Fox

October 17, 2011

ExceLED 225 Nine Light LED

The new ExceLED 225 Nine Light from Videssence is a 225 Watt LED unit with an adjustable beam spread. In spot mode, with daylight (5600K) LEDs, the ExceLED 225 outputs more than 200 footcandles at 15m.

It is claimed to provide "the long throw and high light levels required for film and video in large production studios and similar applications."

The ExceLED 225 should provide a concentrated beam of light with even coverage at a consistent 3200K (5600K optional). Additional control can be achieved with the gel frame and spread lens accessory options.

It measures about 60x55x12cm, while an adjustable mounting yoke allows rotation for ease of focus and may be locked into place. The formed housings are .063 aluminium, post-painted with TGIC polyester powder coat with textured finish. The lights may be ordered in dim and non-dim configurations.

It joins three other models in the range, the ExceLED 25; ExceLED 50; and the ExceLED 100, which we wrote about two months ago.

By David Fox.

Lemo HD Z-Link digital optic link

Lemo’s new HD Z-Link is a compact digital optic link that provides multi-channel system camera-style video and audio connections, and control for studio cameras and camcorders alike over a single hybrid cable using Lemo 3K.93C connectors, effectively turning any camcorder into a broadcast system camera.

“It has dual 1.5Gbps HD-SDI channels, which allows us to run 3D or connect two cameras,” explained Phil Longhurst, Lemo’s Fibre Optic R&D Manager (pictured).

It can carry 3Gbps for 1080p (50 or 60Hz – there is also a 1080p return), genlock cameras to each other, has two return video channels, plus eight stereo audio channels for surround sound, and talkback, as well as HDMI and Ethernet ports. It also allows the use of a remote control panel in an OB truck to control the camera via the serial data port. There is a lockable, highly configurable control panel on the side. “It is very user friendly to configure,” he said.

There is a slimline power pack that can take power from an OB van for the Z-Link, camera, prompter and other systems. It can also be battery powered, and provides a 9v supply for camcorders.

Lemo hopes to deliver it in December, but “there has been tremendous interest” and demo prototypes have gone out to several broadcasters. The full system will cost €11,500, but there will also be a basic system (without 1080p, HD down converter, 3D, dual-link HD-SDI, and several control features) for €7,500.

By David Fox.

October 16, 2011

MacVideo Expo on Tuesday

MacVideo Expo takes place in London on Tuesday (October 18), with lots of interesting sessions, with debate, demonstrations and discussions on all manner of Mac-related production and post production.

It begins at 4pm with Expo organiser, editor, director and author, Rick Young presenting an hour-long session on: Getting to grips with Final Cut Pro X.

At 5pm, there is a chance to visit the exhibitor showcase, network, have a drink and tuck in to the buffet meal.

At 6.30pm, the main sessions start, with a heavyweight panel discussion: The state of post-production on the Mac, featuring: Chris Roberts, freelance producer, editor and Apple Certified Master Trainer (pictured), long-time editor, and Avid user, Barry Stevens (who edited Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and many episodes of Dr Who), filmmaker and Apple Pro Apps Mentor Trainer, Jonathan Eric Tyrrell, and Rick Young.

At 7pm there is Grading in Premiere Pro, when Apple Certified Master Trainer and Adobe Certified Instructor, Simon Walker will share some of the processes he has found useful, how plug-ins help him work faster, and will be showing some tips to get up to speed quickly in Premiere Pro. It is followed by an Adobe presentation on CS5.5

At 7.30pm FCP editor, Philippe Baudet, will look at how to bridge the gap between post production and live event production, and his use of Macs and Blackmagic Design's ATEM production switchers for productions for some of the biggest broadcasters and music acts in Europe.

After a break, at 8.30pm, G-Technology will talk about soon-to-be-available Thunderbolt products, while at 8.50pm Telestream, has a session on advanced distributed transcoding workflows for post using Episode 6 multiformat encoding software.

At 9.10pm Jonathan Richards, talks about shooting with the Panasonic AG-AF101 large sensor video camera.

At 9.30pm, the big finish will be an hour with DoP, director and filmmaker, Philip Bloom (pictured), looking at how to choose the right camera for different shooting situations, with footage shot with such cameras as the Panasonic AF101; Sony NEX-FS100; Sony PMW-F3; and Red Epic.

The Expo will take place at the Royal Society of Medicine (5 minutes walk from Oxford Circus or Bond Street tube stations), 1 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE, which is a really nice venue.

It costs £10, with entry from 4pm, and the buffet meal. Register at: www.macvideo.tv/events/Macvideo-Expo-Oct/

By David Fox