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August 24, 2006

Firestore support for Quicktime is slightly closer...

Yesterday Focus announced an update for the DR-HD100 (the JVC HD-100 only version of the Firestore) which allows it to record 720p30. The update for the FS-4pro is only "a few weeks away" ... just like it was in April! Hoorah!

Posted by at 11:52 AM

August 21, 2006

NBC's Today Show goes HD

Ok. I really don't care about the Today show. I swear. But, folks might be interested in this article about the Today show being converted to HD.

If a huge national production can have HDC-1500s, why can't I?

Posted by at 10:19 PM

I'm not dead, the world's just boring

IBC is in a few weeks, and it seems like everyone is in silent mode leading up to that. There really hasn't been anything worth discussing in the last few days. Shrug...

Posted by at 1:24 PM

August 15, 2006

Mini-Shootout Videos

I've got some video together from our little camera test on Friday. The "shoot-out" element of the test is more or less lost unfortunately. I can only get the first 30 seconds of any given XDCamHD clip (trial limitation of Flip4mac MXF), which means most of the footage is of me focusing the shot. The footage off the XL-H1 is largely over or underexposed, as the viewfinder was, as previously mentioned, "gone wonky."

In any case, I've pulled some of the better footage, and have my thoughts, after the jump.

So first, the footage. Each scene contains shots from each camera (with a camera label in the lower left). The links are for 3mbit H.264 versions (at 1920x1080) and also Uncompressed 8bit 4:2:2 Quicktimes. You'll probably need Final Cut Pro installed to view those.

Bars Chart (h264) Bars Chart (Uncompressed)
Shoe Tree (h264) Shoe Tree (Uncompressed)
River Shot (h264) River Shot (Uncompressed)
Down the Bridge (h264) Down the Bridge (Uncompressed)

The clips are very short, but I figure most people go frame by frame for this stuff anyways. Plus, my iMac really doesn't like rendering uncompressed HD.

So, what can we learn from this footage? First, we can learn that one should plan an event like this a bit more thoroughly - if I'd known about Final Cut's issue with VBR XDCamHD footage for example, we could have shot all CBR. We also could have gotten ahold of some P2 cards for the HVX-200.

In terms of the footage though, we can notice a number of things. The cameras were more or less in their default settings. Immediately, the HVX-200 footage looks the most "pleasant" - with its supersaturated colors, everything seems obscenely pretty. This has been a hallmark of the *VX cameras, and it certainly continues here.

When you move on to the XDCam and the XL-H1, you notice that 1) they're much duller than the HVX and 2) they're much sharper than the HVX. There's a crispness to them that's very obviously lacking on the HVX. The F350 (XDCam) and the XL-H1 both have 1440x1080 CCDs, whereas the HVX is significantly less than that. Whether that can totally account for the visual difference or not, I'm not sure.

The XL-H1 certainly looks the most like video. In fact, I think there is too much digital sharpening going on. The XDCam seems to split the difference nicely. I'm still concerned about the fringing, but I continue to chalk that up to the lens.

Having said that both the XDcam and the XL-H1 looked dull compared to the HVX, I must add that a very minor tweak in the 3-way color corrector was all that was needed to bring them into line with the Panasonic. Certainly it'd be preferable to have the footage come out of the camera that way though, as it's a nice starting point for more intense CC work.

Is it fair to cross compare these cameras? I think it is. Ideally, we would have also had an HDX-900 present, but I couldn't con one out of anyone.

I think that folks looking at the F350 and F330 XDCam units should take a long look at the Canon XL-H1. While you give up the ability to overcrank and undercrank, and the nice workflow of the XDCam format, you save $20,000. Not a small chunk of change.

That said, I think the XDCam format is amazing. I was skeptical in the past, because it seemed like a stopgap between tape and solid state. However, having experienced the pain that is the Firestore, and the expense that is P2, I think that it may have been a wise choice. The footage off the F350 was very, very good, and it was certainly my preferred camera to shoot with. However, if you're just looking for an HD camera to shoot very crisp, normal speed video, you may find that the XL-H1 meets all your needs.

Finally, just for fun, here's a bit of overcrank footage for you. We had to run the HVX-200 in 720p mode, as we were capturing directly into Final Cut Pro and it can't handle the overcrank in 1080p at this point. The link itself is only 640p, because I don't have a 720p preset in Media Mill.

The XDCam is running at 60fps, recording to disc at 24p. Note that when you're doing the 60->24 overcrank on the XDCam, you actually lose half your vertical resolution. So, even though this is a 1080 video, you're really only getting 540 lines of detail.

HVX-200 Overcrank (the first few seconds of this are just white frames)
XDCam Overcrank (some white frames on this as well)

Thanks again to Adam for use of his HVX-200, Steve at Z-Systems for the XDCam, and Gary and Mark for helping out.

I'll post a final update when the 16mm footage returns from the lab.

Posted by at 4:50 PM

August 14, 2006

Mini-Shootout Stills

I'm still gathering up the footage - I may have found a way to get some of my variable bitrate XDCamHD stuff into a format I can use, but it'll take another day to sort that out. Similarly, it'll be about a week until the 16mm is back from the lab. In the meantime, here's some photos and some thoughts.

DSC02278.JPG DSC02282.JPG DSC02286.JPG

DSC02293.JPG DSC02295.JPG DSC02303.JPG

DSC02317.JPG

Overall, each HD camera showed strengths and weaknesses. I think that the Sony F350 (XDCamHD) really does belong in this group, because it's essentially a bulked up HDV camera. You get larger chips and better processing, but it's still 4:2:0 at 25mbps. Frankly, if someone is willing to consider the F350 a "professional" camera, they should consider the Canon XL-H1 just as professional.

We were using the Fujinon 17x lens, and I found it to be remarkably terrible. I'm not sure if we just had a bad example, but the chromatic aberration was even worse than the XL-H1. I need to investigate this further, if I'm going to give any consideration to purchasing one of these cameras. Because they use 1/2" CCDs, there is a much smaller group of native lenses available. You can get an adapter to go to 2/3", but I'm not sure what drawbacks that might have.

I'll post more thoughts and video tomorrow.

Posted by at 5:06 PM

Sony HVR-M15U Mini-Review

We just reviewed a Sony HVR-M15U HDV deck. I've only used it for a short while, but it looks to be just about what I expected - a DSR-11 that happens to play HDV tapes. If you've used a DSR-11 in the past, you'll immediately be familiar with the form factor and the control layout.

You get full playback for both small and regular sized tapes, HDV/DV/DVCam support and that's about it. Standard analog outputs are all you get, as it's quite clear that Sony is incredibly paranoid about stealing sales from higher end Studio decks in the XDCam/HDCam line. Which is stupid.

The M15U will play 1080i60 and 1080i50 - sorry Canon and JVC shooters, no 24 frame or 720 support is available.

As I said, it's a DSR-11 that happens to play HDV tapes. If that's all you ask of it, it does a fine job. Just don't ask too much and everyone will be happy.

187863

Posted by at 4:55 PM

August 11, 2006

Semi-Shootout Results coming Monday

Went out shooting with Gary, Adam and Mark today, with the idea of doing a little camera comparo.

We shot with a Canon XL-H1, a Panasonic HVX-200, and a Sony PDW-F350 (XDCam). Thanks very much to Steve at Z-Systems for the XDCam, and thanks to Adam for the Panasonic. We also shot some 16mm (color reversal), just so that we could say we did.

I'll get more substantial information up Monday, but I wanted to post a quick note. Results so far are:
1) One of our Canon XL-H1s is broken. The viewfinder is jittery and jumping all over. Ugh.
2) Nobody in the Twin Cities has P2 cards for rent on short notice.
3) Final Cut Pro only supports XDCam footage at 25mbps.
4) The Sony XDCam system is really, really nice.

I finally get XDCam. I finally understand why we need to drop about $100,000 on XDCam hardware. I'm ready to shill for Sony. I take back everything bad I've ever said about them. Well, no, not that last one.

More next week!

Posted by at 6:29 PM

Synergizer Update

I just updated our Synergy 2MD to the version 5 software. One of the major upgrades from version 5 is that you can add images to the still store via WebDAV, and you no longer need to deal with XML files and database updates. Just throw the file on the frame and it works.

Because of this, I wanted to post an update to Synergizer which supports the new revision. I still find this tool useful, as I don't like having to manually convert my images to the proper TGA format before uploading them. With Synergizer, it's just drag and drop. If you're running the older software revision, visit this post for a version that will work. As always, let me know if there are features you'd like.

SynergizerMac-1.zip Synergizer for the Mac

SynergizerWin-1.zip Synergizer for Windows

Posted by at 6:25 PM

August 7, 2006

MacPros and Xserves and Leopard oh my!

Today was Christmas for members of the Cult of Mac. WWDC kicked off with a keynote by Steve Jobs, including the announcement of the MacPro and XServe intel machines. They look to be absolutely killer.

Interesting little note on the "Performance" page of the MacPro site. They talk about rendering with Final Cut Pro 5.2.1. That version doesn't exist, at least not in the wild. Does that hint that we may have a somewhat substantial update coming? Could be!

Posted by at 3:06 PM

How Not to Provide Support for a $100,000 product

I've spent the last month trying to get a replacement ribbon cable for a $100,000 switcher, from a company which shall remain nameless. Let me explain.

In June, said company sent me an upgrade kit for a switcher, to add USB flash-drive support. Part of this process involved swapping out a cable in the switcher console. The cable they included wasn't the right length, and would not reach all of the necessary connections.

An email in late June alerted the company to the issue. A week later, having received no reply, I sent a followup. I heard back that they were investigating the issue. Again, time went by without hearing anything, so I gave a phone call. They weren't sure how it was possible that the cable wouldn't fit, so they asked that I send pictures of it. I complied.

More time passed and I heard nothing. I called again. I found out that they were going to send a cable. Hoorah!

A week passed. I heard nothing. I sent another email. Oh, they forgot to send the cable, but they'll send it Real Soon Now!

More time passes.

I email again, asking for tracking information.

I never hear anything back, but a few days later receive a call from someone in another part of the state (Morris, Minnesota) informing me that they've received an overnight package for me. No idea how the package ended up being shipped to an entirely different city, but they forward it on to the Twin Cities. It's the ribbon cable. It fits. Saga ended.

It took more than a month to resolve this issue. I never received any information proactively - I always had to call to poke the process along. Because the package was sent overnight, I don't believe they actually shipped it until I called to ask for tracking information.

This is a $100,000 device. We own two of them. It should not be like pulling teeth to get a replacement for a $3 part sent. Bleh.

Posted by at 11:59 AM

August 2, 2006

Hu? Canon HV10 pocketable HDV cam

Canon's going all crazy now - They've announced the HV10, a handycam-sized HDV camera with many of the features of its big bothers. They're targeting it at $1299, which puts it right in the range of the Sony HC3. While the camera doesn't record 24F, it does play that format back. While that makes it a usable deck for tapes shot in the XL-H1, it seems that with 4 HDV cameras on the market now, Canon would be smart to throw together a dedicated deck. Sell it for $2k, make a bundle, make everyone happy!

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the HV10 is that it uses a true 1920x1080 pixel CMOS chip for recording, instead of 1440x1080 like all the previous cameras. Of course, it's a single chip with a Bayer filter, so the quality isn't likely to rival the X* cameras. Nevertheless, it's exciting to have more cameras pushing the prices down in this market segment.

20060802 Lores Hv10 Threequarter

Posted by at 12:57 PM

August 1, 2006

Current.tv Seeds of Tolerance Contest

Current.tv is running a contest for the best video regarding Tolerance. First price is $100,000 - not small change. Take a look!

Posted by at 3:19 PM

Dolly Reviews

(Stealing from DVguru) StudioMonthly has a little review of various lowcost dolly options. I've played with all the ones listed I believe, with the exception of P+S Technik's Skater Dolly. A good read if you're in the market. I've always really liked the Microdolly Indie-Dolly as it seems robust enough for student use, while still being pretty portable.

Posted by at 10:24 AM

Telestream buys Popwire

Telestream today announced that they've acquired Popwire. I think this is actually a good thing for the industry. Telestream has shown increasing support for the Mac platform, with products like Flip4Mac. Buying Popwire shows that they are indeed very committed to video processing on the Mac. That's good for everyone.

Posted by at 8:59 AM