February 28, 2013

BVE2013: Tiring but successful...

Thanks to all who came to see us at BVE2013. The freelance seminar, in particular, was a huge success. Even though the seminar room was at least twice the size as previous years, there were still about 30 people standing, most of whom stuck it out to the end - so, sorry if you ended a tiring day even more tired than you should have been.

We got a great response, with lots of people asking further questions as we packed up, and some very nice messages on Twitter after the event, such as:

Nelly Diancova @DiamondsNickles
@UrbanFoxTV Marvellous presentation today. I am so driven to follow all the pieces of advice you shared with the audience. Big Thank you !

Giuseppe Cifaratti @CifGiu
My favourite seminar at today's @BVExpo was @UrbanFoxTV . Really valuable advice! #bve2013

Jamie Montgomery @scuuk
@UrbanFoxTV hey Christina, many thanks for the great seminars over the last couple of days at BVE.

Jayne Topping @JayneTopping1
@UrbanFoxTV Hi Christine - seminar yesterday was very helpful. Can you point me in the direction of the seminar info please? Thank you.

For anyone else, like Jayne, who wants to view the presentation to get all the links and information they couldn’t scribble down, the PDF of the PowerPoint is available at http://www.urbanfox.tv/seminar/

The earlier Skills Zone session down on the exhibition floor was also rather packed, although in much more limited space it was never going to be easy for everyone to crowd around or be able to hear everything. However, it was good to be able to answer people’s questions directly.

That was also the purpose of the previous day’s Ask The Experts seminar, where we had an excellent panel (thanks to the experienced producer/director Matt Davis - www.mdma.tv, post production guru Alex Gollner - www.alex4D.com, and audio consultant Nick Way - www.nickway.co.uk). Incidently, Matt has an excellent post on BVE2013 on his blog.

Unfortunately, the room was less than a third full, partly, it seems because the brochure description of the seminar didn’t really explain what it was about, according to some of those that came. However, there were more than enough questions to push us ten minutes over our time slot, so we hope that anyone who did come along got something out of it.

BVE itself certainly managed to draw the crowds, despite the move to docklands, although, like us, most arrived later in the morning than they did previously. Still, there was lots of interest on the show floor, some very good deals available, and lots of people to meet that we hadn't seen in ages....

February 22, 2013

Come see us at BVE - free seminars

Broadcast Video Expo is Britain’s best conference and exhibition for anyone working in the video industry. It has lots of interesting FREE seminars to attend, and is probably the single best place to find out what is happening and make new contacts.

Previously it took place at Earls Court, which was ideal for those of us in what is a west-London-centric industry. However, this year it moves to the Excel Centre in distant east London, so it’s lucky that the seminars we’re taking part in aren’t early in the morning…

There are apparently 283 seminars in total (including those in specific manufacturer’s theatres), so BVE is a great opportunity for some free training. There are also supposed to be 331 exhibitors, so there is a lot to see and do – it’s worth making the journey.

We’ll be taking part in three sessions:

When we’ve done Q&A sessions at previous BVE conferences they have always been packed, so we’ve got another “ask the experts” session this year (Tuesday 5pm), with the assistance of some well known names to answer your questions on any aspect of production and post-production, covering cameras, audio, lighting, editing, and general production problems you may have.

We’ve got a group of independent experts to answer your questions, all experienced industry professionals and media trainers. The current line-up includes the ebullient Matt Davis - www.mdma.tv, the effervescent Alex Gollner - www.alex4D.com, and the ever audible Nick Way - www.nickway.co.uk (although as they are all freelance, that might change….), as well as ourselves. So do come along and bring your questions.

The clinic will be held in the Producers' Seminars Theatre from 17:00 - 17:45, 26 Feb 2013.

Christina will be taking part in one of the drop-in Skills Zone sessions on Wednesday at 4pm, to answer questions about running your own media business. The Skills Zone is worth checking out if you want to develop your career, as there are sessions about CV writing, tax, contracts, script writing, pitching, and starting out in cameras.

The seminar will be held in the Skills Zone Theatre from 16:00 - 16:45, 27 Feb 2013.

On Wednesday (5pm) Christina is giving her ever-popular talk on how to survive and even thrive as a freelancer in a digital, self-shooting world (this is always packed - as seen in the photo from last year, so come early if you want a seat….). It is particularly useful for anyone starting out in the industry, but there will probably be many things that will be useful for people who have even been freelance for several years.

It will cover all the essentials from getting work to getting paid, including the three most important lessons she has learnt as a freelancer…

The seminar will be held in the Producers' Seminars Theatre from 17:00 - 17:45, 27 Feb 2013.

By David Fox

Antelope slows down skiing + golf

LMC LiveMotionConcept supplied multiple Antelope UltraSlowMotion systems plus various analysis tools for the Austrian broadcaster ORF for the Alpine Skiing World Championships in Schladming. It also supplied a wireless slo-mo system for the recent Ladies Masters European golf.

In Austria, it supplied the host broadcaster with two mobile production vehicles, one of which had two Antelope MkIIs UltraSlowMotion systems and one Pico PoV UltraSlowMotion on board.

The MkIIs systems were moved between the men’s and women’s slopes every day with the help of helicopters. During the event they recorded at up to 2,500 frames per second. Thanks to the new enhanced detail function, which is implemented in the latest version of the MkIIs CCU, it was possible to show even little details of the action during each skier’s run.

The Antelope Pico (pictured above) was mounted in the middle of the main grandstand to record crowd reaction at up to 340fps. This was the first time at a major FIS skiing event that this sort of emotional replay was shot at high speed.

A brand new version of the Pico will be available just before NAB. It’s based on an improved 2K high-speed chip and supplies live video output in all HD formats plus a de-flickered replay channel with up to 340fps.

LMC also supplied a special Antelope replay feed, which was delivered to the “ORF House” in Schladming using Riedel Communications’ MediorNet real-time fibre network. A huge LED Cinemascope display was used to show this impressive replay feed to spectators at the championships throughout the day.

The second LMC vehicle was in charge of the analytical content for the world feed and ORF’s national programme.

LMC supplied a Dartfish system to record the clean world feed, plus feeds of three isolated analysis cameras, to produce analysis clips as either Simulcam (where the races of two individual competitors are composited together to compare them side by side) or Stromotion (where a skier’s progress is seen as a sequence of stills composited together). The isolated camera feeds were pre-cut on a LGZ Replay System.

The finished analysis sequences were clipped on an EVS XT2HD system and played out both into the national ORF outside broadcast truck and into the two international OB trucks for the women’s and the men’s world feed signals.

LMC also installed a Paint Touchscreen in the ORF studio. Its switchable input gave the studio experts an opportunity to graphically enhance their in-depth analysis and actively step in and show where a split of a second might make a difference.

Ladies Masters on AIR

LMC also recently deployed an Antelope AIR for the second time at the Ladies European Tour golf finals in Dubai. The Omega Ladies Masters is the grand finale of the busy LET season.

LMC's CEO Felix Marggraff, who is also the Ladies European Tour TV director, used the Antelope AIR not just as a live replay camera but also to record graphic backgrounds or even to shoot features with the players.

“The Antelope AIR is a great camera to show not just technical aspects but also the beauty of the sports” said Dirk Glittenberg, CEO of U.COM Media, the production company in charge of all LET media coverage.

The Antelope AIR is the wireless version of the MkIIs and fully remote-controllable. Both HD-SDI video and full telemetry are received and operated from the TV compound. The camera operator has full freedom on the golf course and can concentrate on the images.

“It’s great that our cameraman does not have to fiddle around with triggering, shading or any other technical stuff,” said Marggraff, who has directed the live and highlight coverage for LET since 2009.

The Antelope AIR includes all the functions of the MkIIs, such as enhanced detail, multi matrix, de-flickering and intuitive remote and operating controllers.

The World Feed Live Production of the 2013 season will start at the South African Woman’s Open on 19April.

Related posts: Fan riot destroys 1st Antelope cameraTiny HD camera blends in and World first ultra-slowmo PoV camera

By David Fox

Vinten Vision blue3 tripod head

Vinten will show the third pan and tilt head in its Vision blue range at BVE in London next week. The Vision blue3 sits between the original Vision blue (payload range 2.1-5kg/4.6-11lb) and the recently launched Vision blue5 (5.5-12kg/12.1-26.5lb), balancing intermediate payloads of between 3.0-6.6kg (6.6-14.6lb), making it ideal for 1/3-inch chip camcorders and DSLRs.

The Vision blue range has all of the key features associated with Vinten’s heads, such as infinitely adjustable Perfect Balance and LF drag technology to provide smooth control and consistent movement quality.

“The Vision blue range has been designed to make the filming process effortless, enabling the camera operator to release his or her creativity. The new Vision blue3 completes the range and brings uncompromised professional performance to the broadest range of users, regardless of the payload of the camcorder and its accessories,” said Andrew Butler, Vinten’s strategic planning and project manager.

The Vision blue3 will be shown publically for the first time on Vinten’s stand #F022 at BVE 2013, which takes place at Excel London on 26-28 February, where, as usual, we'll be taking part in some of the free seminars.

February 20, 2013

Arri upgrades with Alexa XT

Arri has refreshed its digital cinema camera range with the new Alexa XT (Xtended Technology), which will offer: a compact, built-in Raw recorder capable of recording up to 120 frames per second at high quality; a built-in neutral density filter; a 4:3 sensor that can be used with anamorphic lenses; full support for lens data; a new, stronger viewfinder mounting bracket; and an even quieter fan.

The Alexa XT, Alexa XT M, Alexa XT Plus and Alexa XT Studio cameras will replace all previous models except for the original Alexa. Owners of existing Alexa cameras will be able to purchase individual upgrades that deliver most of the features of the XT configuration, including the XR recording module, ND filter module, viewfinder mounting bracket, viewfinder extension bracket, XT Fan and the anamorphic de-squeeze and high speed licenses.

XR Module

Feature films often record Arriraw to capture uncompressed, unencrypted image data so that they have maximum flexibility in post. Recent movies that recorded in Arriraw include Skyfall, Life of Pi, Marvel’s The Avengers, Hugo, Zero Dark Thirty and Amour.

However, recording in Arriraw has previously involved using an external recorder, such as the Codex Onboard, but a lot of users have asked for built-in Arriraw recording, which is why Arri decided to work with Codex to develop the new XR Module. The camera’s modular design means that existing Alexa owners will also be able to quickly swap in the new module for the existing SxS card module.

The result is a smaller, lighter, more affordable, cable-free camera package that records Arriraw inside the camera, at up to 120fps. It uses fast, rugged 512GB XR drives that can also be used to record Apple’s ProRes or Avid’s DNxHD formats, including ProRes 4444 at 120fps. At 6.7Gbps the solid-state XR Capture Drive is claimed to be the fastest digital magazine available. With an SxS Adapter it is possible to record ProRes or DNxHD to a single SxS PRO card, so you can still use existing cards.

For post production the XR Capture Drive offers several different workflows familiar to anyone who has used Codex recorders. First, a small, affordable USB3 Single Dock allows quick, safe copying of data onto a laptop. Second, the Dual Dock can make clones of XR Capture Drives and connect to a Mac Pro via a high-speed SAS interface for speedy copying, archiving or dailies creation. And third, the Codex Vault is a modular and rugged all-in-one system for fast, easy copying, archiving, reporting or dailies creation on or near set.

Neutral Density

The new In-camera Filter Module IFM-1 allows Alexa XT models to be rated at the base sensitivity of EI 800 without the need for external ND filters, even in bright sunlight. Filtering behind the lens rather than in front is quicker and simpler and reduces weight and reflections. The IFM-1 offers eight densities, from ND 0.3 to ND 2.4.

True anamorphic sensor

A lot of moviemakers prefer using anamorphic lenses, to give the CinemaScope look. These squeeze the wider aspect ratio on to the 4:3 sensor that is now standard on the XT cameras (it was previously only available on high-end Alexas). The sensor is the same size and shape as a Super 35mm film frame, so it is also useful for HD productions as it permits significant reframing of the image in post, similar to shooting 4-perforation 35mm film. An anamorphic de-squeeze license is included with all XT cameras, as is a high-speed license for filming at up to 120fps.

Lens metadata

If you are doing anything complex in post, particularly visual effects, it is very useful to have access to lens metadata (which will record what iris, focus and zoom settings you are using for every shot). All the XT models are equipped with an LDS lens mount. The Arri Lens Data System reads the position of all lens rings and writes them into metadata in every format Alexa can record. More than 41 lens models have LDS built-in, including the Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphic, Master Prime and LDS Ultra Prime series, the Master Macro 100 and the Arri/Fujinon Alura Lightweight Zooms. For all other lenses it is possible to store the lens table inside the Alexa by using the Lens Data Archive feature.

Viewfinder mounting

To make the camera a little easier and more comfortable to use, there is a new Viewfinder Mounting Bracket (VMB-3), with a much stronger, more rigid design, partially achieved through the use of two 15mm lightweight rods. These rods also facilitate rapid changes in camera support, i.e. from a tripod to a crane or Steadicam, since accessories such as lens motors or follow focus units can be hung from the rods rather than cluttering up the base plate. Also available as a separate accessory is the new Viewfinder Extension Bracket (VEB-3), with a foldout arm that holds the viewfinder securely in place when moving the camera.

Silence of the fans

Alexa cameras are some of the quieter digital cameras, but a new, improved fan has been included in the XT models, to make it more usable in very quiet or very hot environments.

By David Fox

February 06, 2013

Sony XAVC codec explained

Sony will release a new H.264-based codec this month to enable its equipment cope with resolutions beyond HD, as well as higher frame rates, while delivering higher quality pictures. It looks likely to be Sony’s new core codec, so it could play an important role in future productions.

Once Sony’s new PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 4K cameras start shipping (sometime before BVE), users will be able to take advantage of the new, more efficient, mid-range XAVC codec, which has been designed for 4K, and will offer both intra frame and the more efficient Long GoP encoding. It will also allow higher framerate recording at 1080p.

Sony is offering the F5 and F55 as multi-format cameras, rather than just XAVC, “so that they would fit within the workflow people want rather than restricting choice,” said Product Specialist Sebastian Leske.

The cameras will support four codecs: XAVC, for high frame rates and 4K; MPEG2 at 50Mbps; MPEG4 SStP (Sony’s SR Master codec); and Raw 4K, “by the switch of a button, depending on what job you want to do,” added Olivier Bovis, Sony’s Head of AV Media.

XAVC is an extension of H.264 (AVC/MPEG4), using the highest Level 5.2 of the standard, so it is very solid in terms of multi-generational support, he explained.

However, as Sony already had HDCAM SR and Raw on offer, why did it need yet another codec?

“The data rate from an F65 sensor can be as much as 35Gbps, whereas the new SxS Pro+ cards can go up to 1.3Gbps. So, we still need efficient compression to take all that data and package it in a manageable way,” explained Strategic Marketing Manager Peter Sykes. Besides, MPEG2 simply couldn’t cope with 4K, whereas XAVC is not only able to handle higher resolution but higher frame rates too.

He doesn’t believe that Raw is suitable for every-day production as it results in much higher data rates and can't be used as an interchangeable format. Although Raw offers all the flexibility some productions may need for high-end postproduction, it is inextricably linked to the camera sensor, which complicates the workflow and makes it less suited to productions that need to use a variety of different cameras.

Multiple formats

The F5 and F55 can record existing XDCAM HD formats at 50Mbps or 35Mbps, HDCAM SR (MPEG4 SStp) at up to 220Mbps or XAVC at 440Mbps. For 4K work, you’ll be able to use intra-frame XAVC at 10-bit 4:2:2, which will require 240Mbps at 24p or 600Mbps at 60p. For HD, it will record 10-bit 4:2:2, at up to 60p, at 200Mbps. It can also deliver proxy 4:2:0 images at low bit rates. Users will be able to choose between 8- and 10-bit recording for both XAVC and MPEG2.

XAVC uses an MXF wrapper, as it is “industry standard and well recognised,” said Sykes, and its implementation is identical to Sony’s MPEG2 and MPEG4 SStP MXF OP-1a files.

“It is an enabling technology for a range of products that will emerge from now on,” he added. “It’s a major part of our plan for our acquisition products. XAVC will become the core codec for applications beyond HD and for higher frame rates.”

“To drive beyond HD we had to develop XAVC,” agreed Leske. “The design is future ready.” It will be able to do 4:4:4 (where it will be able to go up to 1.2Gbps), although the F5 and F55 will use HDCAM SR for 4:4:4 work.

“To go beyond HD we needed a new codec, but it is also useful for 1080 50p and 60p,” he added. “It uses a different mechanism to keep the highest quality we can. It allocates more bits to the details (like hair) than for flat areas (like a wall).”

It uses “a pre-coding mechanism to maximise the picture quality,” expanded Sykes.

This uses bit estimation, the same procedure as used for DVD authoring, which estimates what bit rate you need to get the highest quality. If it doesn’t reach it, it does it again. Used as an intra-frame codec, XAVC will do this for each frame, so they are all recorded to the highest possible quality.

At present, H.264 codecs set the parameters for a recording when you start recording, and stick to them, whereas XAVC can change them every frame, so that when you shout ‘Action’, and there is suddenly lots of movement and fine detail in the shot, you aren’t limited to parameters set when nothing was happening.

Sykes believes that 4:2:2 10-bit XAVC at 100Mbps “will be a good basis for broadcast infrastructure and relatively easy to handle.”

Open season

XAVC has been developed as an open format, providing a license program for other manufacturers in the broadcast and production industry to develop their own high quality and high frame rate products.

“It is a codec we are going to be using for lots of different applications,” said Sykes. Sony developed the low power consumption chipset used in the cameras. This not only does XAVC, but also processes MPEG2 – and because it is so fast can do both at once, so that the F55 can record both 4K XAVC and XDCAM HD at 50Mbps simultaneously to its SxS Pro+ card.

Currently, it seems that the XAVC workflow will be supported by such manufacturers as: Adobe (CS6 with Rovi Total Code Plug-in installed), Apple [[UPDATE - Sony XAVC plug-in for Final Cut Pro X (version 10.0.8) now available to download]], Avid, Grass Valley, Quantel and Sony (Vegas Pro 12) for non-linear editing; Assimilate, Codex, Colorfront, FilmLight, MTI and YoYotta for on-set dailies; Assimilate, FilmLight and Quantel for colour grading; Rovi for software codec management; and Matrox for a codec board.

The F5 is designed for HD on-board recording, requiring an external recorder for 4K, whereas the F55 can record 4K internally as well as HD.

On-board recording, in whatever format, will typically require about 25 Watts, but adding the external Raw recorder will add an extra 22W. With the viewfinder attached the complete camera will require about 50W, which is good for a 4K camera recording Raw.

For 16-bit 4K Raw, the system runs at data rates of up to 2.4Gbps for 60p, but this will only be possible with the new Sony AXS-R5 recorder, which fits to the camera body with no need for cabling. The cameras will be able to record both Raw externally and XAVC internally at the same time.

PMW-1000 Deck

To support XAVC (and SxS recording in general), Sony has just announced the new PMW-1000 Memory Recording Deck. This is a half-rack sized recorder, with two SxS memory card slots and VTR-like jog/shuttle operations, that is suitable for both studio and Outside Broadcast use – and is the first stand-alone recorder to handle the new codec.

Following the launch of the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 CineAlta cameras, “the PMW-1000 studio recording deck is the next natural step to bring enhanced and easy workflow support,” said Fabien Pisano, Strategic Marketing Manager, Sony Europe. “The versatility of the PMW-1000 in terms of interfaces, coupled with linear-like operation and the ability to record the XAVC HD format on SxS media, make it an ideal choice for broadcasters and production houses looking for an affordable, quality production solution or for a smooth transition from SD to HD.”

PMW-1000 users can select recording and playback formats from HD (XAVC, MPEG HD422 and MPEG HD420 50/35/25Mbps) and SD (MPEG IMX 50/40/30Mbps and DVCAM 25Mbps) in a variety of frame rated. For anyone who still has to do some work in SD (are there many?) the recorder is designed to make the transition to HD easier, and can also do up-and-down conversion from/to HD.

The PMW-1000 offers a wide range of AV and IT interfaces including: HD-SDI, SD-SDI, HDMI, and composite outputs. An RS-422 interface enables it to be used as a feeder for linear editing while a Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) port allows for high-speed file transfer in network or non-linear operations. The PMW-1000 also includes a HDMI output at the rear for easy monitoring on HD displays. 

A USB interface on the front panel enables easy connection of external USB HDDs without a PC for the direct copying of clips.

It also boasts three-way power source selection. It can operate on AC, DC or battery power, and so it can even be used on location. It should be available in Europe from April.

Procam order

The 4K cameras seem to be attracting a lot of interest. One of the UK’s biggest broadcast hire facilities, Procam TV, has just spent £500,000 on the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55. Procam believes it is the largest single transaction of its kind in the broadcast hire industry.

It is getting its first instalment of 12 cameras this month, and expects considerable demand from its current customers as well as attracting new clients.

By David Fox

LiveU uplink for Panasonic HPX600

Panasonic’s AG-HPX600 can now have LiveU’s video uplink technology integrated in the camera to make it easier to stream live news or events.

HPX600 users will have to download a software upgrade key (AG-SFU603G – a paid upgrade of about £215), which will allow them to incorporate LiveU’s LU40 portable lightweight uplink system into the camcorder.

The LU40 and the HPX600 are connected via SDI and USB, and live camera video can be transmitted through up to six bonded WiFi, 3G and 4G cellular connections via the LU40. The upgrade will allow users to start and stop the uplink from the camera, while the LU40 status will be displayed on the HPX600’s viewfinder.

Panasonic hopes to work with other uplink companies to offer similar features on a wide range of uplink systems.

By David Fox