April 26, 2007
LCD broadcast monitors
There are still plenty of folks who won't trust anything but a CRT for video monitoring. Studio Daily has an article about all the new LCDs trying to replace CRTs for that purpose. CRTs are getting increasingly rare, as environmental regulations make their production and sale difficult. Frankly, for most people, getting a cheap 23" LCD from Dell or Apple along with an HD-SDI to DVI bridge is good enough for most purposes, and a hell of a lot cheaper.
April 20, 2007
I'm so witty.
Sony announced an overwhelming quantity of new cameras at NAB. Here's my quick rundown, but if you want the full list check out the excellent article from dvuser.co.uk.
Remember when XDCam meant "MXF wrapped MPEG-ish video stored to a rewriteable optical disc"? Yeah... those were the days. Now we get the XDcam EX, a camera which writes to expresscard/34 solid state storage. In reality, it looks like an excellent camera - while the lens isn't removable, it does have proper manual features, with physical aperture adjustment. Nice.
In terms of the disc-based XDCam products, the big news was 4:2:2 HD on dual-layer discs. That's a big deal, as it moves XDCamHD from "HDV on a Disc" to something a bit more professional. There are also two new decks, the F75 and one yet-to-be-named which support the new dual-layer discs. Finally, they brought out the PDW-U1, a firewire-attached drive for use with NLE workstations. Rumor is that it'll street at around $3000, which would make it a pretty nice choice for an xdcam workflow.
Finally, in the HDV space, Sony showed a DSR-250 replacement which supports large-format cassettes to provide up to 276 minutes of HDV record time. I'm sure it'll be nice, but unless you need that kind of runtime there are probably better options on the market for the near-$10k pricetag.
Finally, DVUser.co.uk has the officially Sony powerpoint on all these products. It will be very interesting to see how XDCam HD at 4:2:2 compares to HDCam at 3:1:1 (but with less compression).
Notes on Episode plugin for Compressor 3
When Apple announced that Compressor 3 would support Telestream's Episode product through a plugin, I got very, very excited. Then I talked to Telestream, and got very, very sad.
Here's the deal - Compressor has a new Episode option within the preset inspector, which allows you to use the presets from episode in your Compressor workflow. The Episode presets themselves much still be managed from within the Episode interface. Then, when a job is submitted, Compressor does the decoding and passes the data off to Episode to do the encoding.
I got various explanations of how the progress is monitored. One person said you can't use Batch Monitor to see the job, one person implied you could. In any case, it sounds like distributed compression isn't supported directly, without purchasing the Episode Engine product with the split and stitch option. It's all a bit fishy really.
DV.com has a nice roundup of the various software transcoders on the market. I more or less agree with it, though the final section on server use of Compressor is a bit inaccurate. If Episode Engine had proper automation features, it'd be just about perfect.
In depth look at ProRes 422
Apple has posted a white paper on the ProRes codec. A white paper on a video compression codec? Name one thing more exciting than that, I dare you.
Truth be told, the document doesn't contain a whole lot of new information. ProRes is an I-frame online VBR codec, operating internally at 10bit 4:2:2.
A few interesting details came up though. First off, FCP6 will have a new preference that allows long gop formats to be rendered in ProRes. So you can capture your HDV, apply effects, and render them into ProRes. This is really nice, as it means you don't suffer the generation loss issues of long-gop reencoding, and it should be quite a bit faster as well.
Speaking of generation loss, the white paper shows that there is essentially no drop in PSNR after the first generation of encodes. That is, of course, how a codec should ideally behave - if the decoder matches the encoder, successive reencodes won't suffer generation loss issues. However, that's rarely the case in reality.
We still don't know much about how the codec operates internally, though I'm sort of guessing it's a DCT (rather than DWT) based codec with some fancy intelligent quantization routines and good entropy coding.
I'm looking forward to giving it a try.
April 19, 2007
I'll post some more product-specific stuff as I get time, but I wanted to post my general thoughts on this year's show, now that I'm safely out of Las Vegas.
The show seemed even more massive than in the past, with the north hall almost entirely taken over by video folks. It's really a hard show to get anything useful out of, unless you go in with specific needs. It's fun to wander around to the 16 different jib companies, but unless you're going to put the time in to really evaluate the differences between each, it's a bit silly.
I'm also feeling a bit turned off by the whole scene. The show consists of far to many middle aged men looking for a free trip to vegas on the company's dime, rather than folks actually there to evaluate technology. It's just too much of a "good old boys" club. Sitting in the Scopebox booth, I had more than a few of them do a "you buys enjoying vegas seen any good wink wink shows? you should really go to XYZ strip club" ... bleh. Not only is it obnoxious, it's slightly creepy.
The flip side of that is that the same sort of middle aged men with suspenders tend to be representatives in the booths of the major vendors. And they tend to think that nobody under 30 could possibly have any reason to purchase their product. Reps from Sony and Grass Valley literally turned and walked away from me when it was my chance to ask a question. Panasonic was nice however, and that will weigh on my mind as I'm evaluating who to purchase three HD studio cameras from.
On the plus side, folks from outside of the US are consistently friendly and helpful. Props to Telestream in particular.
April 16, 2007
NAB should have more sleep
Day one of the expo. Even though I've been in the hall for the last two days, it's still a shock to see all those people and all those booths.
A few highlights from the day. First off, Scopebox had a lot of traffic, which was nice.
The Focus rep basically admitted that I should just throw away my FS4ProHDs and buy FS-Cs. Jerk. Then a bunch of customers came up and started ranting about how bad their support sucks. That was nice.
The new Bogen 501HDV head is really rather nice.
The Sachtler Artemis is as cool as I thought it would be.
The Telestream plugin for Compressor 3 is actually a whole module, not just an export component. Looks like you get job segmenting and everything. Rad.
The AJA Io HD is as nice as you expect it to be.
That's all I can type right now. Time to die.
April 15, 2007
C'mon down to C11220
Central hall. Booth 11220. Be there or be slightly less informed about realtime video monitoring.
Final Cut Studio 2
Had a chance to attend Apple's special event today, in which they announced Final Cut Studio 2, including all sorts of exciting goodness. For the full scoop, check out Apple's site, or the live feed from Engadget. This post is just the stuff that excites me.
First off, Final Cut Pro now does mutli-def, multi-codec in a single timeline. That's really fantastic, especially for novice users that don't want to worry about transcoding media to other formats. Mix HD, SD, 24p, 60i, etc all on one timeline and play back in realtime. That's nifty.
Final Cut 6 also introduces a new codec called ProRes, a 4:2;2 variable bitrate HD codec which claims to give you uncompressed HD quality at uncompressed SD bitrates. The demos they showed looked really impressive, but demos always look impressive. What makes it exciting is that they've teamed up with AJA to build a FW800 based box (the IO HD) which lets you bring HD-SDI into a macbook pro in the field. That's huge! Here's hoping the codec is as good as they say.
Motion has also gained a ridiculous quantity of new features, taking it from a handy-for-titles app to a full fledged After Effects competitor. To name a few, you get a 3d working environment with multiple cameras, and 3d aware behaviors and particle emitors. You can use audio to provide input to any control, so you can now have the soundtrack to your video control the way the effects behave. You also get an object tracking system for doing match moves.
Soundtrack Pro gets surround sound mixing and a spectrum view with editing capabilities (like Audition). There are a number of other cool features to make the editors easier.
Compressor gets a new interface which exposes some functionality that was actually in Compressor 2 (and used heavily by Media Mill) but which was difficult to take advantage of.
Finally, there's an entirely new app called Color, which is just a warmed over version of Silicon Color's tool (which Apple purchased). Cool that it's free now (as part of Studio) but it didn't blow my mind. Just a color finishing app.
There was lots of other cool stuff, like Final Cut Server and loads of cool demos. They were recording the whole event so hopefully they'll be posting a stream. If not, Final Cut Studio 2 ships in a month so we can all start playing.
April 13, 2007
Award winning student project
I just wanted to highlight a really nice piece by a student, Deb Moe, which recently won the "Get it on Record" contest.
I'm off to NAB tomorrow, hopefully I'll have mass quantities of posts.
April 11, 2007
AACS has not been fixed
I meant to discuss this on yesterday's podcast, but forgot. There's been a new round of news this week about AACS potentially being "fixed", and other stories saying that it's been "rebroken" - in fact, it is neither.
Here's the gist. WinDVD rolled out an update which they said was required in order to play future discs. This of course implies that the device key for WinDVD has been revoked, and that future discs won't be able to be decoded without a new key. That's all well and good - it's exactly what was predicted.
The AACS group did a stupid press release saying that they'd fixed the problem. Of course, all they've done is made it so the folks looking to crack the discs will have to dig around for another device or processing key.
The Volume ID hack that is somehow being tied up in this whole story is in fact mostly unrelated. Prior to this hack, folks were having to go through a few annoying machinations to obtain a volume ID, as it's not directly readable from the disc through typical means. The volume ID, in combination with the device key or processing key is required to decrypt a disc.
So, when new discs appear which revoke WinDVD's device key, the processing key will stop working as well, and having the volume ID won't do any good. The VID hack is still important, at least until they figure out a way to force a new firmware to the Xbox HDDVD drives, but it doesn't negate the key revocation.
M2 on a cheapo camera
There's a thread at DVInfo in which a fellow strapped an M2 lens adapter on a Canon HV20. Working with depth of field that shallow can be pretty challenging, but it's neat to see that it worked. Crazy kids.
April 5, 2007
I have seen the future, and it is Joost
After much anticipation, I got my invite to Joost today. All I gotta say is "Wow" - this thing might actually work.
As soon as you launch the client, you get a list of channels that you can flip through. What makes this different is that you can not only pick your channel, but you can pick your show within the channel. Each of the channels has between 5 and 20 (or so) shows available to choose from. As soon as you select one, it starts playing, almost immediately.
It seems like the video stream is approximately 650kbits (~80K/s). At this point, it's using about 20K/s of outbound traffic, presumably seeding to other viewers. Sometimes outbound usage will spike up quite a bit. I'm not sure if there's a cap on how much outbound traffic it will generate.
In addition to flipping through channels, Joost has a widget system, that lets you chat with other users about what you're watching, or get basic widgety-type updates (news ticker, clock, etc).
It's still a little bit beta - audio sync isn't perfect, and interface operations aren't totally smooth yet. But wow, I could definitely see this, combined with iTunes, making a big dent in normal broadcast tv.
April 2, 2007
Hardcore geekery for Apple TV video encoding
Been meaning to blog this for a few days - Apple has an article up that details the compression settings for both the Apple TV and the iPod. This is far more hardcore than most people really need, but if you like reading reference compression code, you'll be really excited. I know I was.
iTunes goes partially DRM free
At a press conference in London today, EMI along with Steve Jobs announced the availability of DRM free tracks via iTunes. Macrumors has a good roundup of the news. The gist is that for an extra $0.30 per song, or for the same price per album, you'll get 256kbps AAC files without any DRM restrictions. At this point it's just EMI, and perhaps not even the full EMI catalog, but Apple is predicting 2.5 million DRM free tracks by the end of 2007, indicating that they expect other labels to join in the fun.
Is this one of those "tip of the iceberg" moments, where DRM finally crumbles, or will this just prove that people can't be trusted with DRM-free music? Time will tell.