August 2006 | Main | October 2006

September 28, 2006

If only it wasn't Sony

I know that Sony announced the HVR-DR60 harddisk recorder a week or so ago, but I hadn't seen a good picture until today. Darn that's a nice looking DDR.

I mean, it's totally useless, but darn it sure does look nice.

Useless?

Useless for me at least. Perhaps you'll find it to be a world full of happy. It's M2T and AVI only, and likely won't support anything like Canon's 24F or JVC's 24p. So, FCP users are out in the cold.

As I say, I wouldn't give it a second thought if it wasn't such a darn nice looking product. Sigh.

Oh, it's also FAT32. It's time for FAT32 to die. Yes, I know, it's the only truly cross-platform disk format. Frankly, I'd much rather a device that gave me the choice to run the disk in NTFS or HFS+. Generally, when I'm out shooting, I know whether I'll be hooking the drive up to a Mac or a PC. Since these are all using Linux under the hood, it shouldn't be too difficult - Linux can more or less write to both NTFS and HFS these days. Getting rid of the 2gb file limit would be a dream.

Done with that then...

Posted by at 10:19 AM

September 26, 2006

Joy of Joys - Final Cut Pro 5.1.2

Quick! Rock your Software Update! Final Cut Pro 5.1.2! 24p! Hoorah!

Posted by at 5:29 PM

Off Topic: Espionage Anyone?

So, every day I read through the press releases from a bunch of the companies in this field - Sony, Canon, Panasonic, etc. So, today I came across the Canon PC170 personal copier. There may be similar things out there, but this is just so cool.

So here's my plan: I'm going to get some sunglasses, a nice suit and a PC170. Then I'll sneak into the base of the evil supervillian and escape with the plans for the moon rocket. Muahahaha.

Step one: sunglasses.

Posted by at 9:17 AM

September 20, 2006

Canon HV10 Review

Camcorderinfo has a review of the Canon HV10. It's a handycam HDV camera which isn't particularly exciting in the context of this site, but which does feature the ability to play back tapes shot in Canon's 24F and 30F modes, which is pretty cool. Otherwise, it isn't anything too special...

Posted by at 9:22 AM

September 19, 2006

A1Us in the Hiz-ouse

Man, I'm so cool with the titles.

Anyways, we've procured a few Sony HVR-A1U cameras, to replace our dying PDX-10s. We've got three out of four at this point, after a protracted battle with Sony. Sony apparently forgot to keep making them or something, so everywhere on the planet ran out of them. Bummer.

In any case, three of the cameras are here. And what do I think? Follow the jump!

In short, if you're looking for an HD capable camcorder with XLR inputs for less than $2000, the HVR-A1U is your best choice. It's also your worst choice. Because it is, of course, your only choice. In reality, moving up from here puts you into HVR-V1U / Canon XH-A1 range, which means you're looking at $4000 - $5000. A pretty serious jump.

Anyways, the cameras themselves are surprisingly small. I didn't realize just how much smaller (and lighter!) than the PDX-10 the camera would be. This [extra] miniaturization has introduced a few issues which, if there were other choices in this price range, I would consider show stoppers.

Dsc00002-1

PDX-10 on the left, HVR-A1U on the right

First off, it's a bottom load camera. At a minimum, being a bottom loader means that you have to take it off the tripod in order to swap tapes. In this case, it's even worse. The screw-mount for the tripod plate is so close to the tape release, there isn't a way to swap tapes without removing your tripod plate entirely. That's a serious bummer.

It gets worse though. The battery release is on the bottom as well. So, you're going to be pulling the tripod plate off an awful lot. I guess they figure that the XLR-Mic-Sporting soccer moms won't be using tripods, eh? Or perhaps we can just call it a design flaw.

Moving into the "annoying but not design flaws" space, everything is done via a touch screen. I know Sony is hot on these nowadays, but man is it ever annoying. Frankly, I don't find tapping the screen through 4 different rolly-polly menus to be quicker than pressing a physical white balance button. Oh well, it's the FUTURE, right?

Dsc00003-1

The camera has also taken some flack for sporting a single CMOS sensor, instead of three separate chips. In most situations, at least so far, I haven't seen that cause dramatic issues. However, there is a bit more noise in the shadows than I might otherwise like, and you do see some of the aliasing (not the right term perhaps) of the bayer mask in the noise. But hey, if it's good enough for RED, it's good enough for us, right?

The image itself looks quite nice, in HDV or DV mode. Comparing it against a PDX-10 when shooting a bars chart, the two are more or less equal (in DV mode). They both tend towards the reds a bit more than I might otherwise like, but besides that they have nice contrast and an overall nice look.

Dsc00004-1

So, as I said, if you're in the market for a $2000 HDV camera with XLR inputs, you can't do better. Or worse.

(By the way, the stills were shot with an A1U in photo mode)

Posted by at 4:09 PM

Sony HVR-V1U drops

Can someone explain to me what Sony's prefixing is all about? They just announced the V1U, the successor to the Z1U. So far, they haven't made any changes to the A1U. So the V is better than the Z and also better than the A. Obvious eh?

In any case. Here it is, the V1U. The gist? It's a tarted up FX7, as we might have expected following the announcement of the FX7 at IBC. The only major difference is that instead of the pseudo-24p stuff from the Z1, it's go true progressive chips (CMOS not CCD). Interestingly, Sony derides those crummy old "progressive-look" systems in their press release.

A few interesting things to go along with it. First, it can apparently run at hi-speed, 240fields per second, and record that to the normal 60i tape. That's a VERY cool feature - true slow mo without laying down for the HVX-200.

They're also pushing a 60 gig harddisk recorder to go along with it. They don't say too much about it, but it's an interesting option.

So here you have it, the V1U. $4800, shipping in December (January in the real world, nothing really ships in December).

Sony Hvr-V1U Camcorder-Angle Med-1

Posted by at 3:53 PM

September 16, 2006

Introducing Scopebox

I know the majority of the folks who read this site are Mac users, so you might be interested to take a look at a project I've been contributing some code to here and there. It's called Scopebox, and it's a software based Waveform/Vectorscope/Preview monitor (with lots of other stuff) to do live analysis of your video. Mike's been working on it for the last six months or so, and it's finally about ready for release, so take a look.

Screenshot1

Posted by at 7:24 PM

September 11, 2006

Final Cut Pro 5.1.2 announced ... Announced?!

So, currently Final Cut Pro is at version 5.1.1. At IBC, Apple is showing off Final Cut Pro 5.1.2. One wouldn't think this would be big news, but this is hopefully the release version of what they were showing off in their booth back at NAB in April. They say it'll ship within 30 days. I'm a bit perplexed as to why a 0.0.1 release has taken 6 months to get out the door. Dig the description though.

Finally, Canon 24F support, 18/35 XDCam support and additional P2 support. Finally!

Posted by at 11:36 AM

September 8, 2006

Blackmagic Intensity

This is an interesting little product that showed up at IBC: the Blackmagic Intensity.

It's an HDMI ingest board. They're targeting at folks with newer HDV cameras with HDMI outs - the HDR-HC3 for example. The theory is that you get uncompressed video out the HDMI port, which is somehow higher quality.

This is... interesting.

I can only imagine this making a visual difference if you're recording directly into the computer, not recording to tape and then ingesting later. So, I suppose if you want to haul your MacPro around with you, chained to your handycam, you'll potentially get higher image quality. Assuming that the HDMI outs on these cameras come before all the subsampling and whatnot.

Otherwise, all this gives you is a way to get very high bandwidth data out of a very low bandwidth source. This would be the same as capturing the video in HDV and then doing a file->export to Uncompressed. Again, it's nice that this saves the step, but it can't magically improve the quality of the image that was compressed to tape. Just like capturing uncompressed 4:2:2 SDI off a DVCam tape. You may want to work in the larger color space for your post work, but the capture process itself won't improve your image quality.

Furthermore (yes, I know this is turning into a rant), I must take issue with the Intensity Quality page. It's primarily completely bogus. For example, they claim how much better it is to get the native 1920x1080 image instead of the 1440x1080 of HDV, and they assert that the reason HDV uses that resolution is because of the size of the tape and the speed of firewire. Hu? HDCam is 1440x1080 as well, and I'm pretty sure they're not limited by their cassette size. Furthermore, I highly doubt that the CMOS sensor on the HC3 is natively 1920x1080 like they claim. I can't find definitive CMOS specs one way or another, but seeing as nobody else is using native 1920 sensors, I doubt they are as well.

Their 4:2:2 versus 4:1:1 gradients are also a bit laughable. Somehow sampling the colors less often makes them look dull? The banding I might agree to, but come on.

Ok, enough ranting. I really like Blackmagic in general. I think they have great products. Which is why this is especially annoying. Sell it as a board to monitor your timeline on an HDMI monitor. It's cheap ($249) so for that reason along I think it'd be worth it to most people. But don't trump it up as if you're going to make that $1200 HDV camcorder look like a CineAlta.

Posted by at 9:20 AM

September 7, 2006

An FX1 followup, finally!

Sony today announced the HDR-FX7, a followup (or supplement?) to the FX1 consumer HDV camera. Think of it as the VX2000 to the Z1U's PD-150. Make sense?

Nothing terribly exciting in the announcement itself, but we can hope that this hints at a Z7U to come.

Posted by at 9:16 AM

September 6, 2006

Finally, the dreaded August lull is over

Well, things are definitely back in swing here at the University of Minnesota. Students are back on campus, wandering around with doe-eyed faces, while the rest of us complain about how much easier it was to park last week.

In the rest of the world as well, things are heating up. August is traditionally a very slow news month in this industry, and this August was no exception. Hence the lack of posts here. There was literally nothing to talk about.

August is gone now, and September is here. And with it comes news!

First off, Apple released new iMacs and Mac Minis today. The iMac gets the upgraded Merom processor, with 64bit support. They've also added a monster 24" iMac to the line, which even includes Firewire 800. The Mac Mini gets an all-dual lineup, at the same price points.

While this by itself would be good news, even better is what it foretells for next week's Special Event. Obviously there's something Hollywoodish going on with the "It's Showtime" invitation. The fact that they released the new macs today instead of using them as filler for next Tuesday is a good sign that Apple is pretty excited about whatever they have to show off.

Even more interesting is a trademark filing Apple recently made about their iMovie trademark. They've added a few new classes to the trademark, indicating that they're likely going to move the iMovie trademark into some new markets. The new classes deal with online transactions, electronic sales and other items. While this may be purely coincidental, it sure seems that the name iMovie is going to end up being associated with their new movie distribution push.

Exciting Times!

Furthermore, IBC starts this weekend. Anyone want to fly me to Amsterdam? We can expect more announcements from across the industry.

Posted by at 2:44 PM

September 1, 2006

16mm film came back...

And it's crap.

I may still capture some. One reel was totally useless - seems like the film wasn't being pulled through the gate properly.

The second reel is better, but has a shadow across every frame, due to a hair stuff between the lens and the prism.

At least we know the camera works.

Sniff.

Posted by at 1:30 PM