November 30, 2011

Sony XM Pilot + XDCAM workflow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XDCAM Station

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

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

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

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

PMW-500 camcorder

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

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

XDCAM Workflow Tour

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

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

By David Fox

November 29, 2011

Hands on with Canon's EOS C300

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

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

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

November 25, 2011

Autocue Motion Pro stabiliser

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

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

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

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

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

By David Fox

November 18, 2011

Edius to get 3D editing support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Fox

Matrox MC-100 SDI-HDMI converter

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

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

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

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

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

By David Fox

November 07, 2011

Alexa to support Avid DNxHD

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Fox

November 04, 2011

Red turns Scarlet into low-cost Epic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Fox.

Canon EOS C300 digital film camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Fox

November 03, 2011

New Matrox Mojito MAX I/O card

The Matrox Mojito MAX  is claimed to be a first professional I/O card with an onboard H.264 encoding accelerator. The new PCIe card includes SDI, HDMI and analogue HD/SD video and professional audio connections.

Alongside the release, Matrox has announced support for the new Avid Media Composer 6, on this card and the rest of its MXO2 devices.

The Mojito MAX offers broadcast-quality input and output for other post-production applications, such as Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium, Apple Final Cut Studio and FCP X, and will let users deliver H.264 files for the web, mobile devices and Blu-ray up to five times faster than software alone. 

Other features included in this 3/4-length PCIe card include 10-bit hardware scaling (for up-, down- and cross-conversion, including frame rate conversion) and inexpensive HD monitoring with the Matrox HDMI Calibration Utility.

The accelerator can cope with resolutions from 64x64 to 1920x1080, at bit rates from 100Kbps to 50Mbps, at various frame rates, with a choice of constant bit rate, constant quality or variable bit rate, built-in noise filtering, de-interlacing, and scene detection.

“The time-saving benefits of our unique MAX H.264 accelerator have been long appreciated by users of our portable MXO2 I/O devices, but many customers have been asking for an economical card for Mac Pro and PC workstations that can do the same job,” said Alberto Cieri, senior director of sales and marketing at Matrox.

“Mojito MAX nicely addresses the need for a single-slot card with SDI, HDMI, and analogue I/O plus H.264 encoding speed and quality — all at a breakthrough price point" – which is $995, £749 or €799, including the card plus a complete video/audio I/O breakout cable and an HDMI cable. 

Matrox Video Products Group is also supporting Media Composer version 6 for capture, monitoring, and output with its entire range of MXO2 I/O devices (pictured), costing from $449, £338 or €382. 

“Matrox MXO2 MAX I/O devices are unique on the market in giving Avid editors lightning-fast H.264 encoding directly from Media Composer 6,” said Cieri. “They are also still the only solutions that connect anywhere, Mac and PC, via Thunderbolt, PCIe, or ExpressCard/34 — with the same versatile unit.”

By David Fox

Blackmagic supports Avid MC 6

Blackmagic Design has released Desktop Video 9.0, a new software update for its products with advanced capture and playback for the Avid Media Composer 6 family (including Symphony and NewsCutter), for both Windows 7 and Mac OS X.

Desktop Video 9.0 is a free download and includes support for all current DeckLink, Multibridge, Intensity and UltraStudio hardware, and allows Avid editors to use Blackmagic Design’s latest Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 and PCI Express video capture and playback devices.

The UltraStudio 3D (pictured) and DeckLink HD Extreme 3D take advantage of new advanced 3D editing support in MC 6, offering an advanced dual stream 3D workflow capturing left and right eye to separate files, saving time and creating a much more fluid editing experience for 3D projects.

“We have been waiting to do this for years,” said Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design. “To have full integration with Avid Media Composer 6 with our capture and playback devices, plus AAF round trip with DaVinci Resolve, are truly defining moments for all our creative customers and for the film and television industry, this changes everything.”

“With support for Blackmagic hardware or Avid accelerated and natively integrated DX systems, customers now have more choice than ever when working with Media Composer, Symphony and NewsCutter,” added Angus Mackay, segment marketing manager at Avid. “Blackmagic’s support of DNxHD and AAF makes for easy project transfer and pipeline design, smoothing workflows and boosting productivity for our mutual customers, who can leverage existing hardware investments and easily add Avid editing systems into current workflow configurations.”

By David Fox

Free music for your videos

Christina has written a comprehensive piece on where to get free or low-cost and royalty-free music for your videos on her Canon XF Notebook site.

Also worth a look are all her Training Course Notes pieces, on such topics as Peaking, Face Detection, Synchronising Timecode, and tapeless media. Although they are aimed at users of Canon's XF camcorders, a lot of the information, particularly for Peaking, is relevant to users of almost any camcorder.

Avid Media Composer 6 open + 64-bit

Avid has launched new 64-bit versions of its non-linear editing systems, with Media Composer 6, Symphony 6 and NewsCutter 10, which are claimed to offer "unparalleled workflow speed, flexibility and time savings." They are available for Mac OS (Lion) and Windows 7 (64-bit).

They have been rebuilt from the core on a new open, 64-bit architecture, with a sleek, new User Interface, designed to speed workflows while preserving the functionality existing users are familiar with.

They support AVCHD and Red Epic (inc 5K) with Avid Media Access (AMA), an Avid DNxHD 444 codec, and support for Avid Artist Color.

AMA gives direct access to file-based media, while other new technologies include: Avid PhraseFind, powered by Nexidia; and Avid ScriptSync, for phonetic searching and editing; and real-time Mix and Match, allowing multiple formats in the same timeline.

The new Avid Open I/O enables support for popular video and audio cards from AJA Video Systems, Blackmagic Design, Bluefish444, Matrox and MOTU. Users can also incorporate Avid’s Nitris DX hardware video accelerator, which has been reduced in price. Nitris DX comes with one or two Avid DNxHD or AVC-Intra chips and supports full resolution and full frame stereoscopic workflows.

The Symphony software now offers greater flexibility and choice for on-set and mobile editorial and colour correction work, or meet increased facility capacity, and it too is now available at a lower cost, as a software-only product.

There is enhanced integration with Pro Tools (which has recently been upgraded to version 10) plus 5.1/7.1 surround support and extensive metadata management, which allows the transfer of more session data from Media Composer to Pro Tools. Additional metadata is available in the AAF interchange format.

Its new 3D stereoscopic workflow offers full resolution, real-time editing, with title and conversion control.

It will preserve full colour information from HD RGB 4:4:4 sources, without affecting system performance or storage requirements through the new DNxHD 444, high-quality HD codec, which it says is also "an ideal archiving format."

For colour correction it now support the Avid Artist Color control surface (above). It can also reduce time to edit by eliminating transcode, re-wrap, and log and transfer processes through AMA with its native support for AVCHD and Epic as well as the ability to encode Apple ProRes (Mac OS-based systems only). There is also 2.5 times faster encoding with Sorenson Squeeze v6.0.4, included with the new NLEs.

The new versions will be available on November 15, with NewsCutter costing the same price as Media Composer, while Symphony 6.0 (from $5,999) will be available as a standalone software option and Nitris DX (from $5,499) will also be a standalone hardware option.

Media Composer 6.0 starts at $2,499 (Academic versions from $295). Upgrades cost from $299. NewsCutter 10 starts at $2,499, with upgrades from $499.

Final Cut Pro users (excluding FCP X) can purchase Media Composer, with free online training to help them make the move, for $1,499.

By David Fox