June 3, 2010
A nice comparison of mics
DVEStore has done a great comparison of different types of microphones on video. Audio is a black art, and folks rarely put in the time to do A/B/C comparisons. We tend to just default to a set of mics that we've decided are "good enough" and then don't go back to reevaluate.
April 15, 2010
NAB 2010 wrapup
Another year of NAB has come and gone. Making it out of Vegas with some remaining faith in humanity seems like a successful outcome. So, anything worth talking about at the show?
First off, there's 3d. 3D is The Next Big Thing, and that was obvious to anyone who spent half a second on the show floor. Everything from camera rigs, to post production apps, to display technology was all 3d, all the time. I'm not a huge fan of 3d in most cases, but the industry is at least feigning interest.
Luckily, at a show as big as NAB, there's plenty of other cool stuff to see. So, what struck my fancy?
First off, Avid and Adobe were showing new versions of Media Composer and Premiere. Both sounded pretty amazing on paper, but I must say I was somewhat underwhelmed by both in reality. Premiere felt a little rough around the edges - the Mercurial Engine wasn't the sort of next generation tech that I expected. Media Composer 5 has some nice new tweaks, but it's still rather Avid-y - which is good for Avid people, less interesting for the rest of us.
In other software news, Blackmagic Design was showing off some of what they're doing with the DaVinci technology that they acquired. Software-only Da Vinci Resolve for $999 is a pretty amazing deal, and the demos were quite nice. That said, color correction is an art, so just making the technology cheaper isn't necessarily going to dramatically change the number of folks who do it well - see Color.
Blackmagic also has a pile of new USB 3.0 hardware devices, including the absolutely gorgeous UltraStudio Pro. Makes me pine for USB 3.0 on the mac.
On the production side, we saw new cameras from just about everyone. To start at the high end, the Arri Alexa was absolutely stunning. Perhaps the nicest digital cinema footage I've seen. Not only that, but they've worked out a usable workflow, recording to ProRes plus RAW. At the price point they're promising, the world is going to get a lot more difficult for RED.
Sony's new XDCam EX gear is another good step forward for that format. Nothing groundbreaking, but another nice progression. I was kind of hoping we'd see 4:2:2 EX gear from them, but I suppose they need to justify the disc based formats for a while longer.
The Panasonic AG-AF100 is another interesting camera, bringing micro 4/3rds into video. The only strange thing is the recording side - AVCHD to SD cards. While I'm thrilled to see them using SD instead of P2, it sure would have been nice to have an AVCIntra option.
Finally, Canon's 4:2:2 XF cams are a nice option for the ENG/EFP market. Nothing groundbreaking, aside from the extra color sampling, but it's a nice step up from what they've been doing.
Speaking of Canon, it's interesting to see the ways that the 5d and 7d have made their way into mainstream filmmaking. At one point, I thought they'd be relegated to the indie community - folks looking for nice DoF on a budget. Instead, they seem to have been adopted by a huge range of productions, from episodic TV to features. While they're not right for everyone, the price and quality make them an easy choice in many cases.
One of the stars of the show for me was the GoPro, a small waterproof HD camera that ships with a variety of mounts, designed to be used in places where you couldn't or wouldn't use a more full featured camera. No LCD, just a record button and a wide angle lens. I bought two.
Those are the things that stand out for me. While there was plenty of interesting stuff to be seen, given the current economic conditions at the University, I wasn't exactly in a shopping mindset. The show definitely felt more optimistic than it did last year, and companies are again pushing out new products. However, attendances was about 20% lower than 2008, and that was definitely noticeable on the show floor.
February 18, 2010
CaptionManager - easily add and remove captions from QT movies
Cough. Yeah. Remember this blog? Right then.
Here's a new little app to add and remove caption tracks (SCC files) from Quicktime files. In theory you can do this with Quicktime Pro, but it doesn't seem to work so well anymore.
This zip file includes the source for the app, Xcode project, and a compiled build.
Basically, you can open a quicktime movie, and it'll detect whether there are already captions or not. Then you can strip the captions if they already exist (plus an associated TC track) or add new captions from an SCC file. You'll either need to be on Snow Leopard or have the Caption Component installed. The built version is Intel only, though you could probably compile a PPC version if you were so inclined.
The app writes out a new file, rather than updating in place, due to some limitations in QTKit.
For the command line, running ./CaptionManager.app/Contents/MacOS/CaptionManager -help will give you the relevant info.
No license attached, because I still don't understand the implications of BSDing stuff created on the University's dime.
Oh also, the GUI leaks a little memory. Deal. I've also posted a screencast of the app.
November 18, 2009
Sony Launches Less Useful Z5U
Sony today announced the NXCAM, an AVCHD-based "professional" camera which bears a striking resemblance to the EX1 and Z5U.
You get 1080p exmor CMOS chips (presumably 1/3"?) and records AVCHD to the highly popular (sarcasm) Memory Stick media.
Pricing hasn't been announced, but presumably it'll be in the $4000 range like the Z5U. I'll be curious to see how this shakes out in the market.
October 26, 2009
ClipWrap 2.0 brings AVCHD support
Do you love AVCHD, but hate the long, disk consuming transcodes? Well, ClipWrap 2.0 is here, and it lets you turn your AVCHD mts files into Quicktime compatible mov files, with no transcoding, and no generation loss. Dig it.
(disclaimer: the author of ClipWrap is a friend)
October 21, 2009
XDCam EX gets some friends
Sony has announced a couple new additions to the XDCamEX family - the PMW-350 and the PMW-EX1R.
The 350 is a shouldermount camera with interchangeable lenses and 2/3" chips. That puts it somewhere between the 1/2" PDW-F355 and the 2/3" 4:2:2 PDW-700.
The EX1R is a minor bump to the EX1, adding features that users have asked for, like a dedicated viewfinder and a DVCam recording mode.
For me, the most interesting bit of news is that Sony is launching the "MEAD-MS01," an SXS to MemoryStick adapter. I guess Sony noticed that many EX1 and EX3 users have been using SD adapters, and decided to get into that market. And of course, they had to use everyone's least favorite flash format, Memorystick. I'll stick to my SD cards for now, but it's nice to see Sony "legitimize" that recording option a bit.
October 15, 2009
Why iFrame is a good idea
First off, as opposed to what the fellow in the Washington Post writes, it's not really a new format. iFrame is just a way of using formats that we've already know and love. As the name suggests, iFrame is just an i-frame only H.264 specification, using AAC audio. An intraframe version of H.264 eh? Sounds a lot like AVC-Intra, right? Exactly. And for exactly the same reasons - edit-ability. Whereas AVC-Intra targets the high end, iFrame targets the low end.
Even when used in intraframe mode, H.264 has some huge advantage over the older intraframe codecs like DV or DVCProHD. For example, significantly better entropy coding, adaptive quantization, and potentially variable bitrates. There are many others. Essentially, it's what happens when you take DV and spend another 10 years working on making it better. That's why Panasonic's AVC-Intra cameras can do DVCProHD quality video at half (or less) the bitrate.
Why does iFrame matter for editing? Anyone who's tried to edit video from one of the modern H.264 cameras without first transcoding to an intraframe format has experienced the huge CPU demands and sluggish performance. Behind the scenes it's even worse. Because interframe H.264 can have very long GOPs, displaying any single frame can rely on dozens or even hundreds of other frames. Because of the complexity of H.264, building these frames is very high-cost. And it's a variable cost. Decoding the first frame in a GOP is relatively trivial, while decoding the middle B-frame can be hugely expensive.
Programs like iMovie mask that from the user in some cases, but at the expensive of high overhead. But, anyone who's imported AVC-HD video into Final Cut Pro or iMovie knows that there's a long "importing" step - behind the scenes, the applications are transcoding your video into an intraframe format, like Apple Intermediate or ProRes. It sort of defeats one of the main purposes of a file-based workflow.
You've also probably noticed the amount of time it takes to export a video in an interframe format. Anyone who's edited HDV in Final Cut Pro has experienced this. With DV, doing an "export to quicktime" is simply a matter of Final Cut Pro rewriting all of the data to disk - it's essentially a file copy. With HDV, Final Cut Pro has to do a complete reencode of the whole timeline, to fit everything into the new GOP structure. Not only is this time consuming, but it's essentially a generation loss.
iFrame solves these issues by giving you an intraframe codec, with modern efficiency, which can be decoded by any of the H.264 decoders that we already know and love.
Having this as an optional setting on cameras is a huge step forward for folks interested in editing video. Hopefully some of the manufacturers of AVC-HD cameras will adopt this format as well. I'll gladly trade a little resolution for instant edit-ability.
October 13, 2009
The other shoe drops
Sure enough, Apple has announced iMovie 8.0.5 with support for the iFrame format. I win the prize!
New Sanyo cameras have editing in mind
Sanyo has announced some 'A' revisions to their existing FH1 and HD2000 cameras, which add a new "iFrame" mode. It appears this is an i-frame only h264 mode, at a reduced 960x540 resolution. It's a very interesting idea - if other manufacturers adopted it as an optional setting, and if NLE manufacturers supported it, it could turn H264 into an edit-friendly format. Right now, editing H264 is hamstrung by the extremely long GOPs and complex interframe relationships. Going to i-frame only makes it essentially a more advanced version of a codec like DV or DVCProHD.
Interestingly, the bottom of the press release mentions that
"The iFrame logo and the iFrame symbol are trademarks of Apple Inc."
That's news to me. One wonders if Sanyo jumped the gun on a release, or if this is just a format that Apple uses internally in tools like iMovie, which Sanyo has co-opted. I'll certainly be keeping my eyes open for an Apple announcement about "iFrame."
September 10, 2009
Adobe launches preview of Story
Adobe is getting into the script management business with Story, and they've launched a free preview to show it off.
It's an interesting space for Adobe to enter, and it'll be interesting to see how it stacks up against tools like Celtx.
August 5, 2009
Google purchases On2
One of my favorite companies purchases one of my least favorite companies. Not sure what to make of that. In any case, Google has announced its acquisition of On2 Technologies, makers of the VP6 video codec (among others) which powers most flash video content. On2 is also the company that created the framework for what became Ogg Theora.
It's an acquisition that makes a lot of sense. Between YouTube and all of the other Google properties, having an IP-rich video R&D group can only benefit them. And for $100 million, it seems like quite the bargain.
July 31, 2009
Logitec launches a serious mic for the iPhone
Not available in the states yet, but Logitec (not Logitech) has revealed an XY stereo mic attachment for the iPhone. The price in Japan is under $100, so it's a realistic alternative to a standalone recorder like a Zoom. It's also got a separate mini-jack stereo line input.
July 29, 2009
Kodak continues the pocket-cam arms race, announced 1080p cam
Kodak has announced the Zi8, the next in their line of flip competitors. Features are pretty similar to the Zi6, but now you get 1080p video, instead of 720p.
The bigger feature, in my book, is the external mic jack. Suddenly the camera is a whole lot more flexible. It'll be very interesting to see if the quality can match the features, as I was immensely let down by the original Kodak cam, the Zi6.
One also wonders what the point of 1080p is, with tiny, crummy sensors, but I suppose a bit more oversampling can't hurt, if your goal is nice-looking web video.
July 23, 2009
Final Cut Pro7 drops
After what seems like ages of rumors, Apple has announced a new Final Cut Studio, with upgrades to Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack and the rest.
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that there any life-changing upgrades. Even Apple's press release can't highlight more than some prores updates, new formats, and some minor tweaks. Hmm.
July 7, 2009
VLC reaches 1.0
VLC has finally done what so many google products seem unable to achieve - left beta. VLC 1.0.0, available now, adds support for a number of new formats, as well as substantial interface refinements. The player that plays everything is now even better. Cool!
Edit - apparently Google de-beta'd a bunch of their apps today too. Weird.
July 6, 2009
All about the HTML5 Video tag
I've been meaning to write something about the hubbub surrounding the HTML5 video tag, but in the meantime, Ars Technica has a nice writeup.
I got a chance to see an amazing example of the video tag, combined with some simple JS and CSS, at a recent conference. It had everyone in the audience salivating. Unfortunately, licensing and patent issues could prevent widespread implementation. And of course, without support in IE, you'll be stuck creating fallback flash videos for the foreseeable future.
Anyways, I'll have more thoughts on the debate before too long, for now check out the Ars writeup.
And, yeah, I'll get back to blogging.
June 1, 2009
A few Final Cut Studio 3 rumors
Now that FCS3 is apparently in the hands of some outside testers, a few more bits of information are leaking out. AppleInsider has a bit of a roundup - no feature details, but at least more confirmation that an update is in the pipeline.
Evom - a replacement for iSquint?
Cough, is this thing still on? Sorry for the absence, the end of the semester sort of owned me.
It's still in beta, and may not be free when it launches, but it looks pretty slick.
April 25, 2009
Foundry fix for rolling shutter
FreshDV has an interview with a developer from the Foundry, discussing a demo project they have to correct rolling shutter. It's worth a viewing if you're interested in the pros and cons of CMOS. I've had discussions with folks in the past about the sort of optical analysis necessary to correct rolling shutter in post, so it's pretty cool to see it being done. Also interesting is his guess that within 2-3 years, rolling shutter won't be an issue (in new cameras).
April 20, 2009
AJA KI Pro brings direct to disk ProRes capture to the field
The AJA KI Pro is a DDR recorder which records from HD-SDI or HDMI directly to ProRes Quicktime files on a variety of media types.
This is a pretty amazing piece of hardware, small enough to travel with. This makes a pretty awesome complement to something like an XDCam EX.
Matrox launched MXO2 Mini and dedicated H.264 accelerator
Apparently it was a long winter in Canada, as Matrox has just announced two relatively awesome products.
The first is the Matrox MXO2 Mini, a stripped down version of their MXO2 PCI-E/expresscard capture box. The MXO2 provides input and output for HDMI, analog component, plus svideo and composite. So, for all the folks who want to capture the 4:2:2 HDMI output for their cheap consumer cameras, this box makes that a reality for less than $500. That's a pretty amazing deal.
At the same time, Matrox has announced the CompressHD. It's a PCI-Express card which offers hardware-accelerated H.264 encoding. Unlike other solutions, it appears to directly integrate into transcoding products like Compressor, so it can plug into existing workflows.
Priced at less than $500, the CompressHD could become a no-brainer addition to many edit suites, assuming it does what it claims. Matrox just jumped a few slots on my "must visit booths" list.
Another Prosumer AVC-HD cam from Panasonic
Panasonic has just announced the AG-HMC40, a small form factor "AVCCAM" camcorder. You get XLR inputs, 1080p recording, and a touch interface.
Think of it as a baby brother to the HMC-150, about which I hear many good things. I'll definitely be checking it out at NAB tomorrow.
April 8, 2009
Sony capitulates to the collapse of capitalism
I'm a few days late in posting this, but it's exciting none-the-less. Sony, recognizing that budgets aren't likely to grow any time soon, has released a pair of low-end HD studio cameras, with one model breaking the $50,000 barrier.
The HXC-100 and HSC-300 are both triax-based "industrial" style cameras, which can accept existing large lens kits. They're switchable between SD and HD, and support both 1080i and 720p.
Basically, these are no frills HD studio cameras, which have been lacking in the Sony line. We've used the D35, D50 and D55 cameras in our studios, and have been very happy with the quality and mostly happy with the reliability.
There's very little additional information available about these cameras, but hopefully more will appear at NAB. The prices ($69k for the HSC-300, $45k for the HCX-100) are supposed for a "basic system," though it's not clear what that includes. I'm going to assume that it's camera+CCU, sans lens.
March 30, 2009
Install iMovie 06 on a machine with iLife 09
I just unpacked some new iMacs which ship with iLife '09. When trying to install iMovie 06 on these machines, I was prompted to install iLife 08 first. Solution?
Open a terminal and type "touch /Library/Preferences/com.apple.iLife08.plist"
March 25, 2009
Scopebox 2.1 has just been released, bringing a wide range of changes, including better HDV and QT performance, interface tweaks and a number of usability enhancements (bugfixes). A free download for Scopebox license holders, so go grab your copy.
March 24, 2009
RAID is not backup
Stumbled upon this article regarding a lawsuit filed against Promise Technology. It seems that online backup firm Carbonite was using Promise gear to store their data (mistake number one). They were relying strictly on RAID to keep the data safe (mistake number two). An alleged firmware bug caused the arrays to get trashed. So customers lost data, and Carbonite is suing Promise.
Just a good reminder that RAID Is Not Backup.
March 19, 2009
Whaa? Cisco acquires Pure Digital
I was rather surprised to learn that Cisco has acquired Pure Digital, creators of the Flip Video line of cameras. These cameras have been hugely successful, but it's surprising to see Cisco getting into that field.
The $590 million dollar purchase price is also pretty surprising. Obviously Cisco thinks there's a lot more value to be found in the Flip line. I've been more inclined to consider them a nice transition product on our way to properly video enabled cell phones.
Microsoft Embracing H.264
Was that a pig that just went by my window?
Ben Waggoner from Microsoft made a post on the quicktime-users mailing list yesterday announcing that Silverlight 3 (currently in beta) will support H.264. This extremely exciting, as previously Silverlight was Windows Media only.
Take a look at this post from Ben, detailing some of the media-related changes. This means it'll now be possible to deliver the exact same file in Flash, Silverlight and a podcast.
March 9, 2009
ProApps press conference on March 24th?
MacRumors is reporting that some dude in Germany thinks there'll be a proapps oriented press conference on March 24th. Normally these rumors are pretty "meh," but lots of people are itching to see an update to Final Cut Studio, or some sort of statement from Apple about their long term feelings on the proapp sector.
March 5, 2009
Hi there, my name is rolling shutter
If you want an example of just how bad rolling shutter can be, take a look at this video shot on a Canon 5D Mark II. Wow, that's some craziness.!
March 3, 2009
Finally, something to spend all that extra money on
The iMac and Mac Mini get faster video, speed bumps and a variety of other bumps. The Mac Pro gets the new Nehalem Intel chips, more ram and new graphics cards with Display Port.
So, go out, support the economy, buy some Apple gear.
February 26, 2009
Sony intros 4:2:2 XDCamHD field deck
Sony has announced a portable XDCam HD deck that records in the new 4:2:2 XDcamHD format, the PDW-HR1. The 422 format first debuted on the PDW-700, which I gather has found fans in a variety of fields, from ENG to dramatic feature content.
Having a compact portable deck that records 4:2:2 is great, even if your workflow isn't XDCam-centric. This would be great paired with something like an XDcam EX1 - you could feed HD-SDI into the deck without having too much to haul around.
Now we just need to see HD422 pushed to the EX product line. That would a pretty huge deal.
February 19, 2009
ScreenFlow 1.5 adds extra awesome to the party
ScreenFlow, the uber-awesome screencasting app, has been bumped to version 1.5, adding a number of new features - most importantly, the ability to add titles.
The titling feature is simple to use and works as expected - it creates a text track on top of your video that you can manipulate in a variety of ways. You can create multiple stacked text layers if you want, and apply transitional effects to them.
Nearly as exciting is a set of audio effects. I often end up bringing my screencasts into Soundtrack Pro for some sweetening - hopefully one day ScreenFlow will be able to do basic hum removal, compression and normalization internally. For now, you get basic reverb effects and preset equalizers.
Anyways, it's a free update, so if you've got ScreenFlow you'll be prompted to update. And if you don't have ScreenFlow, what are you waiting for?
February 18, 2009
Command line tool to split H264 files
Here's a quick hack of an application to take an H264 (or any quicktime really) and spit out a new subclip.
This is based on the code from Codeshop, and I'm not implying any ownership. All I did was write a little wrapper for their moov code.
The zip includes the code, xcode project and a built binary. Command line usage is "./H264Parser <file> <start in seconds> <end in seconds>". Output is dumped to stdout, so you probably want to redirect it to a file with > output.mov. Progress info goes to stderr.
Output is throttled, but you can turn that off by commenting out the usleep.
This probably isn't a very useful application to many, but if you want to implement pseudo H264 streaming to Flash without a browser mod, you can probably think of some clever uses ... (IE, pass the output to a client side flash player).
February 10, 2009
BBC recommended settings for the EX1/EX3
There's some very interesting qualitative and quantitative analysis of these cameras. Additionally, they give some good setup tips and tweaks, without going into too much technical jargon. Definitely worth a read.
February 3, 2009
ClipWrap 1.1 brings transcoding to the party
ClipWrap has been out for a while, taking M2T files and turning them into Final Cut Pro compatible Quicktime files. Now, ClipWrap 1.1 adds transcoding to the feature set - bring in any M2T file, spit out ProRes, Apple Intermediate, DNxHD and a variety of other formats.
I've been playing with the beta of this for a while, and it's pretty slick. Many people are shooting HDV but prefer to edit in an intraframe codec. This allows you to easily batch convert a whole day's shooting into something more edit friendly like DVCProHD.
Perian for Pro Codecs - Free HDV/DVCProHD/XDcam decoders
I've been hacking on some patches for Perian to allow it to playback the "pro codecs" that you normally can't play without Final Cut Studio installed.
So, I'm posting four different Quicktime components. These are playback only (no encoding). I chose to break them into separate components so you can pick and choose only what you need. Just put them in your Library/Quicktime folder.
These are, of course, UNSUPPORTED, and may very well leap out of your computer and murder you with an axe. On the plus side, they let you play all those Quicktime files that your Final Cut using friends give you.
So, here we go:
And of course, the source for all of this. This is based on Perian 1.1.3. You'll notice I've modified the Xcode project to add separate build targets for each component (plus a few others, not posted here). This allows me to spit out a half dozen different components without having to modify source.
Firmware update for the Zi6
I haven't had a chance to apply it yet, but Kodak released a firmware update for the Zi6 camera a few weeks back. Hopefully it solves all of the troubles and the world is joyful again.
February 2, 2009
Hello Mimo, my name is debt
The Mimo. Talk about "want," it's a 7" USB monitor, perfect for displaying extra data, panels, email, etc. Or for a few bucks more, add a touch screen, a webcam and a mic.
This is also perfect for any number of embedded systems as well - especially with the touchscreen. I think I'm in love.
B&H reviews the HVR-Z5U
The Z5U is a pretty nice camera for those needing more than an A1U and less than an EX1.
January 29, 2009
Fixed one little bug. Working on the fun bonjour-equipped full-cluser-controlling version now.
iMovie09 reviews starting to come in
Now that iLife 09 is shipping, a few reviews of iMovie09 are starting to appear. Gizmodo covers some of the new features, and it certainly seems impressive. Crunchgear has a more general iLife09 review, and Beau Colburn just focuses on the new image stabilization features.
I've got my copy, but haven't had a chance to play around yet. Perhaps next week I'll do a more general review.
January 28, 2009
UMCal for the iPhone
UPDATED: Screengrabs changed to allow for syncing more events. Check out C4 below.
This is off topic for the normal blog content, but here goes.
iPhone users at the UofM know that getting data from UMcal into your iPhone is painful at best, obnoxiously painful at worst. It involves a one way sync into iCal, then a sync through iTunes under the phone.
Not anymore! Synthesis AG has released "Todo+Cal+Sync" (clever names, those Germans). It's a $14.99 app for the iPhone which can sync with the UMcal servers. It's a standalone application on the phone - it doesn't sync into the phone's calendar app. That'd be ideal, but at least this solves the issue of adding events on your phone, or double checking an event, etc. No longer will I get to the east bank and then realize I don't know what building I'm going to.
Here's how to get it set up.
A) First, purchase and launch the app. Tap the sync settings icon in the upper left:
B) Next, select the settings tab at the bottom. You'll be modifying settings in the three areas I've highlighted below.
C) First go into the server settings menu (B1). Add your username (C1) and password (C2) (university X500), and set the SynML version to 1.1 (C4).
D) Then, tap the url field (C3) and make it look like the screenshot below:
Get back to the main server settings screen (B1 above) and go into the Calendar and Todo settings. Make each of them look like they do below. You can choose the number of "past days" and "future days" - longer spans will take longer to sync.
You're done! Click done on the settings screen, click the synchronize button, and it (should) work.
January 27, 2009
Field terminate HDMI
AudioQuest has announced a system for field terminating HDMI cables. This is a big deal for folks doing custom home theater installs. At this point this solution seems to be simple a 3d model, but they say they'll have a product out in 2q 2009.
Saw it on Engadget HD.
January 26, 2009
Compressor Controller - new app
Whipped up a small little app for controlling a Compressor cluster node. It'll let you start, stop, and reset Compressor and Qmaster. It goes a bit deeper than the system prefpane - actually stops the launchd process, kills any stray processes, etc. Reset will toss your cluster settings so that you can readd it to a new cluster, or recreate a cluster.
I've tested on a total of one machine so far, so who knows if it'll blow up and murder you...
January 23, 2009
Use a mono mic with a Sanyo Xacti HD1000/HD1010
We recently got a load of Xacti HD1010s, along with Azden WLX-Pro wireless mic kits. Hooked em' all together, and they sounded ... awful.
Here's the problem - the Azden has a mono output, while the Sanyo has a stereo input. You end up with your wireless mic going to just the left channel. However, the Sanyo seems to use joint stereo encoding, which ends up giving you a right channel 'warble' echoing the left channel.
So, what you need is a mono to stereo adapter in line. Of course, you can't magically make stereo out of a mono source, but you can duplicate the signal. So, I just make some adapters that went from the tip on a female minijack connector to both tip and ring on a male minijack. Problem solved.
I went looking for a premade adapter, but couldn't find anything that seemed sure to work.
January 21, 2009
Quicktime 7.6 adds MPEG-demuxing
Apple has officially released Quicktime 7.6, which adds support for demuxing MPEG-1 files. IE, you can open a .mpg file and export it to an H.264 file. For the first time in the history of quicktime, the resulting file will have both audio and video.
So, that's pretty cool. Now we just need to see what else it breaks.
January 19, 2009
YouTube allows file downloads
It's not on every clip, but YouTube is allowing file downloading. What you'll get is the H.264, "High Quality" version (but not the HD version).
That's pretty slick - how delightful to not have to worry about all of the semi-functional YouTube downloader apps.
January 9, 2009
Need 400 gigs of HD footage from Nine Inch Nails shows?
Trent Reznor has released (sorry, some "mysterious shadow group" has released) 400 gigs of raw HDV footage from three concerts on a recent tour. They're available as torrents from this page, so you can cut your very own concert dvd. It even includes Final Cut project files!
Talk about crowd sourcing...
January 7, 2009
Oh yeah, Apple Stuff
Yesterday at the NotSteveNote, Apple introduced a new iLife, along with new iWork and MacBook Pros. Not a ton of excitement overall, but the new iMovie has some interesting improvements.
Personally, I really liked iMovie 08 - I thought it was a perfect product for folks getting started in video. Not many people seemed to share that opinion though, so iMovie 09 brings back a lot of the feature that people missed from iMovie 06, while retaining the new new interface and editing style. Apple's iMovie page gives the full rundown.
A few things they didn't mention at the keynote: green-screening, flip minoHD support, and archiving of file-based media. Here's hoping the Final Cut team is paying attention (assuming they still have jobs).
January 6, 2009
Canon releases oodles of new cameras
Canon has announced a load of new cameras - The HF S10, HFS100, HF20, HF200, HV40 and a half dozen more.
The HV40 retains the HV* tradition of tape-based HDV, plus the ability to record to memory cards. The rest of the line is AVCHD to a variety of recording mediums, but adding the 24mbps AVCHD mode that's all the rage these days.
A nice bump across the line, and they've still got the mic input, which makes them loads cooler than anyone else. (Are you listening, everyone else?)
December 31, 2008
MxR cards in use
Our MxR cards recent arrived, so I grabbed some snaps of them, in use with some Transcend 16gig SDHC cards.
On the left, we have a total of 48gigs. $200 total - $105 for the MxR adapters, $95 for the SDHC cards. On the right, we have one 16gig SxS card, which run about $750 right now.
Unless you need to overcrank, you'd be insane not to order some MxR adapters right away. Awesome.
December 23, 2008
Ubercaster gets more Uber
Ubercaster, an all-in-one podcasting application, has been updated to 1.6, adding integrated support for Skype and a number of other nifty things.
I've played with Ubercaster a bit in the past, and although the learning curve is a bit steep if you want to really take advantage of it, for the Leo Laportes of the world I think it's an amazing solution.
December 12, 2008
Creative Vado HD: Another Day, another pocket HD cam
CNET has posted its review of the Creative Vado HD, another contender in the Flip MinoHD / Kodak Zi6 space. The big selling point of the Vado is that it adds HDMI output, unlike the rest which only offer component.
It seems like a solid contender, but it sure is ugly... it almost looks like a prototype unit or something. Anyways, take a look at the review for the full scoop.
December 10, 2008
Zacuto Camera Comparison
Zacuto, a camera rental firm out of Chicago, recently did a camera comparison between a load of different cameras. Their video is available, along with some more information on the shoot. The video has a lot of discussion about the test - they're definitely aiming towards digital cinema, rather than ENG or some other type of acquisition. It's a relatively interesting conversation, well worth the 10 minutes.
Saw it on FreshDV.
December 8, 2008
SD cards in the XdcamEX cams, now even easier
A fellow named Ross Herewini posted on DVInfo today, announcing a line of SD card to ExpressCard adapters that are purpose built to fit in the EX1/EX3 cams. One of the downsides of the previous solutions was that you had to leave the cardslot door open, potentially exposing the camera to dirt, etc.
He's not taking orders quite yet, but it looks like they'll be about $50. Throw in a $31 16gig Transcend SDHD card. Pocket the $700 savings over SXS cards.
Only downside is that you can't overcrank beyond about 40fps, but you can always keep an SXS card around for that.
December 5, 2008
Death of the trade show
We saw hints of it last year, when Apple and Avid pulled out of NAB, but now comes news MacWorld San Francisco looks to be dying a rapid death, and one can assume that many other big tech-industry trade shows aren't far behind. So far, we know that Adobe and Belkin have pulled out of MWSF. They're traditionally two of the biggest exhibitors. MWSF continues to extend their early registration times as well.
Obviously, we're in a recession and the world is falling apart, but I'm guessing these are the sorts of things folks won't reverse course on even when the economy gets better. As NAB approaches, it'll be interesting to see who else pulls out. Fun!
I just found out about a new project from TechSmith (of Camtasia fame) called the Jing Project, which combines a free screencasting (and still-image capture) application with an online hosting service.
The screencasts are recorded directly to flash, and the interface, while not very HIG-y, is pretty simple. Capturing isn't as smooth as Screenflow, but hey, it's free. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.
December 4, 2008
Massive camera review database
If it's one thing Germans love, it's data. In that vein, Slashcam has launched an amazing online database of camera specs and reviews. Check it out at http://camcorder-test.slashcam.com, helpfully provided in English for those that don't sprechen sie deutsch. Here's hoping they can keep it up to date.
December 3, 2008
Play Quicktime HDV files on Windows
One of the downsides of the way Final Cut Studio handles many modern formats (wrapping from m2t/mxf/mp4 to quicktime) is that the files are difficult to play on Windows, even with Quicktime player. Because Apple hasn't made things like its HDV component available for windows, you were out of luck.
Calibrated Software comes to the rescue with a set of decode-only codecs for OSX and Windows, which allow you to play back DVCProHD, XDCam (HD/EX), HDV and more. They're very reasonably priced, and seem like a great solution for folks who need to share content from FCS with PC users, or even with other Mac users lacking the FCS quicktime components.
November 26, 2008
Compressor Repair does the hard work for you
Compressor Repair, a new application from Digital Rebellion, automates the steps for giving Compressor a boot to the head. Someday I'll get ambitious and post the shell scripts I use for doing this all from the command line on the Media Mill cluster.
Saw it on FreshDV.
November 20, 2008
ProApps Update - Shake?!
Wow, ProApps update 2008-4 just came out, with, among other things, an update for Shake. The last release was June 2006. Apparently they still have a copy of the source code around though ...
Err, maybe I need to put out a press release
HDCameraGuide.com, a site that I mentioned a couple weeks back, put out a press release today in which they brag about having a good google ranking.
Wow. Here's hoping in the future they spend more time updating their camera guides, and less time on press releases (like, adding the Sony HDW-650).
It'd bad enough that my RSS feeds get filled with "such and such company has hired a new editor," but c'mon guys...
November 19, 2008
Cheap Camera Audio Braindump
The other day, I set up three cheap cameras (and one expensive camera) in the studio, stood a distance away, and rambled. Every camera was using all the default settings, and fully zoomed out. The goal was to see how the onboard mics compared, without any post processing or anything fancy.
The contenders are the Sanyo HD1000, Kodak Zi6, Pure Digital Flip Ultra and the Sony XDCam EX1. The last one was just for fun.
To start with, you can watch the video, where I cut between the various cams. I won't speak to the video quality right now, as I want to do some more extensive tests once I get my replacement Zi6, and the results weren't particularly shocking - the XDcam wins soundly, particularly when looking at dynamic range, and the rest are various levels of crappy.
If you listen to the audio though, you'll hear a pretty wide range of results. The Sanyo is by far the loudest, the Zi6 is in the middle, with the Flip and the XDCam being the quietest. The XDcam is also far less noisy than the others - accurately reproducing the hiss in the room, without introducing its own noise - as you'd expect. The Flip also does a nice job, particularly with a bit of normalization.
The Zi6 picks up the audio well enough, but introduces horrible compression artifacts. I'll withhold final judgement until the replacement comes, just in case it's just another issue with my example, but i doubt it.
If you had to pick a camera from this bunch for audio that wouldn't get the benefit of any post-processing, it'd have to be the Sanyo. If you were going to do a normalization pass, it'd be the Flip.
But, my ears suck, so lets look at the charts.
It's a bit tough to see in the unnormalized charts, but the Sanyo doesn't pass any audio above 18khz, the Zi6 above 15khz. The Flip and the XDcam pass all the way up to Nyquist.
November 14, 2008
Kodak Zi6 - Ow, My Freakin' Ears!
Our Zi6 arrived yesterday. I've got a larger review, comparing it against the Flip Ultra, Sanyo HD1000, and others, on the way. But, while the video is quite nice, given enough light, I couldn't help but notice that the audio was making my ears bleed.
The cause? DC Offset on both the left and right channels. Easy enough to fix after the fact, but not acceptable. I've gotten some source files from a few other Zi6s and haven't seen similar issues, so I'm hoping I've just got a bad one. Which will lead to a fun conversation with some poor outsourced tech support rep on Monday.
I wanted to get a post up, in case anyone else is having similar issues. The issue manifests itself as an out-of-phase sound, like the audio isn't placed quite right in the stereo field. Or just open it in a waveform viewer and look for the offset.
Using the iPhone as a control surface
The Unofficial Apple Webblog has a nice piece about the range of iPhone apps out there to turn the iPhone/iPodTouch into a control surface for AV software like Logic, Max/MSP, etc.
I did a post a while back showing the possibilities to control Motion with some basic MIDI software, but the available applications have come a long way since then.
November 13, 2008
RED announces loads of stuff
While I'm sure I'll return to my usual cynical self soon, I must say I like the modular camera idea they're really promoting with this new batch of announcements. Buy the block, then add on all the accessories necessary, and later swap the block.
Oh, and it wouldn't be a RED announcement without a bit of "WTF?" insanity, so here you go - 28k camera that shoots 260 megapixel stills, coming in 2010. Word.
November 12, 2008
Panasonic announces nifty P2 deck
The AG-HPG20 is a portable deck which takes HD-SDI input and lays it down to P2 cards in either DVCProHD or AVCIntra formats. Unless you're Convergent Design, this is in the category of Hella Cool. They don't explicitly say whether it'll run on batteries, but hopefully if they call it "portable," it will.
AVCIntra is my Compressed HD Format Of Choice, if all else was equal (vendor support, etc). My dream would be a device like this that went to SXS instead of P2, but we can't have everything all at once. 4:2:2, full raster i-frame only compression at 100mbit? Hotness.
Apple taking a step back from the enterprise?
Apparently Apple's SVP of Enterprise Sales is leaving, and there are no plans to replace him. Wonder what that means for all the enteprisey stuff ... I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Flip goes High Def
The Wall Street Journal has the first review of the new Flip MinoHD, a 720p upgrade to the popular Flip Mino camera. This is the first serious competition to the Kodak Zi6 (damnit Amazon, ship mine already!) with the advantage of onboard storage and built in rechargeable batteries. The MinoHD also apparently sports much improved onboard software for working with your video, though "much improved" from the old stuff doesn't say too much ...
Unfortunately the review doesn't have any native video from the camera, so it's hard to really judge the camera quality. One of the biggest downsides they mention is the lack of a way to share the HD video ... yes ... if only someone had a solution...
Edit: One downside I noticed in digging a bit - it's 720p or nothing, no option to shoot natively to a lower resolution. That's one of the things I like about the Kodak - you can do 640x480 when you don't need the quality and just want long record times.
November 11, 2008
HD POV Camera
Sony has announced a cut little HD lipstick camera plus recorder combo, the HXR-MC1. It's AVCHD, with 400 minutes of record time on a charge. A nice little product for reality TV, etc.
BoinxTV officially released
BoinxTV, the all in one tv studio app, is officially released. I'm really excited - I haven't had time to try any of the prerelease seeds, but it promises to be a pretty slick alternative to Wirecast.
November 7, 2008
Panasonic Buys Sanyo
Well, I was right that Sanyo was ripe for acquisition, but I didn't expect that Panasonic would be the ones to do it. It seems like Panasonic is more interested in the "heavy industries" parts of Sanyo - making batteries, solar panels, etc.
Here's hoping the Xacit line doesn't get buried - the Panasonic SD9 is right at the top of my list of least favorite consumer HD cameras.
November 6, 2008
Windows 7 to do smart things with video
EngadgetHD has a nice post on the codec support expected in Windows 7. Expect DiVX support, H264, MKV (!!!) and video conversion.
November 3, 2008
Website for high end camera info
HDCameraGuide (warning, site talks to you) is a new site focused on covering the high end of the camera market - a place to unify information about HD studio cameras and digital cinema cameras.
We'll see how it develops - it's a space that could certainly use some more third party input, besides just competing press releases. While there are loads of sites about prosumer and indie gear, there aren't too many focused on really covering this space.
DigitalContentProducer has the press release.
November 1, 2008
BD+ publicly broken
Slashdot has the roundup, some folks from Doom9 have broken the BD+ encryption from BluRay discs. While SlySoft, a commercial company, had previously broken it, it's not out in the open. And the war goes on...
October 30, 2008
Aiptek launches mini projector
Aiptek (known for kind of crummy solid state camcorders) has launched a handheld projector, the PJV11X. It's strictly SD, and will only project an image of about 42" diagonal, but I'm a sucker for stuff like this. A battery powered project in your pocket? Just think of the opportunities for civil disobedience!
Thanks to Macnn for the link.
October 23, 2008
Ouch for Avid
Wow, earlier today I suggested Avid as one of the companies Apple could buy with its wad of cash. Avid just announced their quarterly results, with a drop in earnings compared to the year ago period and a 10x increase in their net loss.
Also announced is a plan to sell Softimage, and a workforce reduction (edit: about 410 people or roughly 15% of the company).
October 22, 2008
Mr. Pixel and Mrs. Grain
Wow, FreshDV has this amazing three part series investigating Film versus Digital.
Drop everything and watch it now.
Quicktime 7.6 beta
Macrumors says Apple has seeded Quicktime 7.6 to developers. One part of their writeup got me pretty excited - looks like Apple is taking a stab at transcoding muxed mpeg files in Quicktime. After more than a decade of pretending mpeg didn't exist, that's pretty interesting.
October 15, 2008
Posting Mad Men
Post Magazine has a piece about the post production process for the TV Show "Mad Men," which I have been hooked on. If you haven't seen it, it's definitely worth a look. The show itself has a very distinctive feel, and this article goes into a bit of how that feel is achieved.
CS4 is shipping - Open your wallets
Adobe put out a press release to announce that Creative Suite 4 is now shipping. Super!
October 14, 2008
Third party memory with Sony Xdcam EX1 and EX3
Ever since the release of firmware 1.11 for the Sony EX1, there's been some hubbub in the community about support for third party memory cards, as an alternative to the very expensive SXS cards from Sony and Sandisk.
There's a great thread at DVInfo with lots of real world results about what works and what doesn't. Shockingly, it seems like the best combo right now is a Kensington expresscard media reader combined with some Sandisk SDHC cards. So, instead of $850 for a 16gig sony SXS, you can drop $65 for a 16gig SDHC card and be on your way. Read the thread to find out the pros and cons - it's not all puppies and rainbows, but very nearly...
October 8, 2008
Sony EX3 studio rig
ProVideoCoalition has some shots from a little Sony show out in CA. One of the interesting things is the Nipros rig for the Sony EX3. I'd heard a bit of discussion about this rig in the past, but hadn't seen any shots.
If you're familiar with the Camplex line of products, it's very similar - a little box that muxes together a bunch of connections, spews it down fiber, and another box that demuxes it at the other end.
You get intercom, return video and remote control, plus an HD-SDI feed. There aren't enough specs out yet to really evaluate the product, but it could be pretty interesting. Sony says $29k will get you an EX3 + the rig, though perhaps you'd want to drop another $15k for a nicer lens.
October 7, 2008
DFXP to SCC
As promised, I'm posting some sample code for converting from DFXP to SCC. Actually, the SCC generated is contained in a class (captionConvertClass.php) independent of the DFXP parsing. To use it, all you do is:
$myClass = new captionConvert(startingTimecode);
$finishedCaptions = $myClass->outputCaptions();
the "startingTimecode" item is somewhat important. Quicktime files can have timecode tracks that don't start at zero, but DFXP captions are always relative to a 00:00:00.00 start time. So, if the timecode track of your movie begins at 01:00:00:00 (as any file coming out of FCP will) but your DFXP file starts at 00:00:00.00, you need to let the convertor know so that it adds the right times.
Otherwise, it's pretty simple and pretty basic. There are lots of things it doesn't do (scc formating, proper Drop Frame handling, foreign characters, etc). But at least it's a start. If you want to see conversion done right, look at SCC Tools, which is much more feature complete, at the expense of being much more complicated and ... perl.
captionConvert.phps (sample dfxp parsing)
captionConvertClass.phps (plain text -> scc conversion)
October 3, 2008
TUAW is reporting that Techspansion is shutting its door and, thusly, killing off VisualHub. That's a big loss for video conversion on the mac platform. Hopefully someone will come along to fill their shoes. Bummer.
Quicktime 7.5.5 allows Sanyo Xacti HD1000 1080i playback
The recently released Quicktime 7.5.5 update brings back the ability to display the 1080i H.264 files generated by the Sanyo Xacti HD1000. Nifty!
October 2, 2008
Oh noes, your mac pro is killing you!
So, there's all sorts of news today about how Mac Pros emit toxic odors that will murder us all.
Normally I wouldn't bother posting this, but I found it humorous. When I got my Mac Pro a couple years ago, I gave it a name based on a particular characteristic I noticed:
September 30, 2008
Arri accessories for smallish HD cameras
Freshdv pointed me to an HDFilmTools.com video about some of Arri's new accessories for small form factor HD cameras. The video shows off their new matte box, follow focus and support rails, all mounted to a Sony XDCam EX1. I hadn't realized Arri was so enthusiastic about this space - some of the off-brand matte units have been pretty cheesy, so it's nice to see them raising the standards a bit.
September 22, 2008
ATSC adopts AVC for future DTV broadcasts
NAB sent me some spam today saying that the ATSC group has adopted AVC (H.264) as a format for future DTV broadcasts. Currently, ATSC DTV transmissions use the MPEG-2 format.
The primary target is those markets that don't currently have any DTV transmission technology in place yet. Implementing AVC in the US domestic market would be a bit of a challenge, give the number of MPEG-2 decoding tuners already in place, or on their way to market. Essentially, we'd need another round of "we're going to break all your TVs on this date" in order for AVC support to happen at this point, and it's probably not worth the trouble.
September 17, 2008
Focus Enhancements files Chapter 11
Focus Enhancements, manufacturers of the Firestore line of products, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy today. It was pretty clear that it was coming - they haven't had a profitable quarter for quite a while, the stock has been delisted from the NASDAQ and the market for harddisk recorders is eroding.
Too bad for their employees, but hopefully someone will buy them cheap (their market capitalization was under $5million yesterday) and refocus (excuse the pun) the company around a core set of products. Many folks don't realize that besides the Firestores, Focus makes video switchers, digital asset management tools, conversion software, digital signage tools and semiconductors. Maybe it's time to just do one of those things well...
September 16, 2008
On2 VP8 - better codec, same issues
On2 has announced VP8, the latest in their line of video codecs. Most folks are familiar with VP6, which was the standard Flash Video format prior to the adoption of H.264.
On2 is claiming that they can achieve H.264 performance at half the bitrate. I don't doubt that there are instances in which that's true, though with any codec comparison, there's lots of room to fudge the issue. Keep in mind that H.264 was initially approved in 2003, so it doesn't surprise me that On2 has been able to make improvements, though similarly in that time there have been many improvements to the H.264 standard which have not yet made it into mainstream software.
I think the time of proprietary, single source codecs like VP8, VP6, or Real (or even Sorenson) have passed. VP6 was a great stopgap which allowed Flash to deliver decent quality video in the browser, but it was always a pain to work with, with limited encoding options and non-standard tools. On2 is advertising VP8 as an alternative to the mucky patent world of the MPEG licensing association, but that process isn't nearly as difficult to traverse as they imply, and I doubt the costs to get a license for H.264 are significantly different than the costs to license VP8.
The great benefit of ISO standards like VC-1 and H.264 is that anyone can go get a reference encoder or reference decoder, with the full source code, and hack on their own product. When it times come to ship, they just send the MPEG-LA a dollar (or whatever) for each copy and everyone is happy.
Ok, that's enough rambling.
JVC gets on the SXS train
ProVideoCoalition has coverage of a few JVC announcements from IBC. JVC will be launching an add-on for its HD200 and HD250 cameras which adds a single SXS slot recording in some sort of XDCam format. They've also launched a JVC branded version of the Firestore FS-5.
It's pretty exciting to think about the possibility of other manufacturers adopting the SXS format. It'd be nice to see prices come down further on the cards, and more flexibility to move between devices.
By the way, anyone got a Focus Enhancements deathwatch yet? The stock's down to 7 cents a share... if I had $6 million, I could buy the whole company!
September 11, 2008
Telestream announced PipelineHD
This happened a few days ago (at IBC) but I forgot to blog it - Telestream has officially announced the Pipeline HD, the newest member of their Pipeline family of products. Pipelines take video in and spit it out ethernet, in a variety of formats. The Pipeline HD was "pre-announced" at NAB, but now it's officially headed our way.
The SD pipelines output DV and MPEG-2. With the HD model, they've gone a bit higher end, supporting DVCProHD, ProRes 422 and DNxHD.
I've had some experience with the SD pipeline and have always been impressed. The selling point is that it lets you use your existing IP infrastructure to move video around, instead of building out a video fabric. However, having these 'pro' formats in the new one means they'll really be opening themselves to a wider market.
August 29, 2008
Telestream purchases Vara
ProVideoCoalition has the blurb announcing that Telestream has acquired Vara Software, makers of ScreenFlow and Wirecast.
I'm not sure what to make of that - Telestream has shown good taste in who they acquire, having previously purchased Popwire, makers of the Episode line of products. However, Vara was a rising star in the mac software community, consistently delivering highly polished, fun to use, reliable applications that pushed the boundary of what was thought possible. One hopes they continue to retain some independence after the acquisition, and can keep churning out the products that have won them so much acclaim.
Anyways, congrats guys, hope you made some serious cash.
Apple releases standalone ProRes codecs
Apparently not content letting DNxHD eat the whole cross-platform near-uncompressed HD-interchange pie (what a delicious pie), Apple has released standalone copies of the ProRes codecs for both Mac and Windows. These are available as a free download, which will allow any Quicktime-supporting application to playback prores files.
This is a major step towards what would be the ideal solution - a codec pack, which many of us would happily pay for, which would provide codec parity between mac and windows, without having to purchase Final Cut Studio.
August 21, 2008
Ross ships a 20 slot frame
This is one of those "only interesting to me" stories, but Digital Content Producer has the press release announcing a 20 slot frame from Ross Video at IBC. In our newer studio at the University, we ended up spilling into a second frame to hold Ross cards, so it's nice to see that in the future we can up the density, rather than sacrificing precious rack space.
August 19, 2008
I mentioned it earlier, but ClipWrap is officially on sale. There's a free trial which will convert the first minute of any number of m2ts, and $50 gets you the full application.
Check the features list for the full rundown. It'll finally make my Firestores useful again!
August 18, 2008
Cameras in Use at the Olympics
I'm stealing this post from FreshDV, which offered links to an article at Camcorder Info about the cameras in use at the Beijing Games, as well as an article in the Wall Street Journal about the "DiveCam" rig. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff.
August 17, 2008
Daily Show PVRs
A commenter on PVRBlog has posted some details about the way the Daily Show handles recording loads of video content each day. Essentially, a stack of TiVos and a PA. Which is kind of what I expected...
August 11, 2008
Fireworks in Olympic Ceremony Faked
Beijing Olympic Broadcasting has acknowledged that some of the fireworks in the opening ceremony were digitally created and were inserted into the feed live.
I'm sure a bunch of folks will get all self righteous and use it as an excuse for more anti-Chinese rhetoric, but I can't see much reason to get upset...
August 7, 2008
Canon HF11, HG20 and HG21 hit the states
Electronista says that the new Canon AVCHD cameras are hitting our shores now, bringing with them the first implementation I know of that records AVCHD at the max bitrate of the specification (24mbps).
Up until now, the AVCHD cameras I've used have been rather lackluster compared to HDV cameras, mostly due to far too aggressive compression schemes. AVCHD has the potential to be far superior to HDV at similar bitrates, so It will be exciting to see the video produced by these canon cameras. The HF11, which records to 32gig of internal flash, or external SDHC memory cards is particularly interesting. The other models record to harddrives, which is a bit meh.
One little item to complain about: the 24p mode records to 60i files. Excuse me? 24p in 60i (with a pulldown) made a little sense with DV since DV was only ever designed for 60/50i interlaced video. 24p in 60i with HDV made a little less sense, since it was a new spec, but since it was a physical tape you could make a claim about tape speeds and whatnot.
But throwing 24p inside a 60i container on a file based camera? Wow. That's some pretty serious artificial market segmentation! The AVCHD spec allows for 1080p24, so why make it hard?
In any case, look at how many badges it has! It's gotta be good! And the truth is, I'm excited to try this camera.
August 5, 2008
Sample footage from the Zi6
It's not Xdcam EX1, but it makes the Flip look like a sad little relic.
Note - when I went, the Vimeo built in player wasn't working, but if you login to vimeo you can download the original quicktime by following the link in the lower right. Very nice.
August 4, 2008
VMware Fusion 2 Beta 2 is better than a room full of puppies
VMware Fusion 2 Beta 2 came out last week.
Features? Run OS X Server as a guest OS. Multiple snapshots. What does that mean? Observe:
Ever wanted to test under two versions of Quicktime without maintaining a machine just to trash for that purpose? Make a snap shot at once version, update to the new version, and then jump back and forth.
I lack the words to describe just how awesome this is.
July 30, 2008
Olympic Broadcasting Porn
There's an article up at the Beijing Olympics site with some pictures of the master control room for the upcoming olympics. I'm a sucker for stuff like this.
I see P2 VTRs and XDcamHD VTRs. I'm looking forward to tuning in.
July 24, 2008
A load of Batman stories
I haven't had a chance to see 'The Dark Knight' yet, but StudioDaily has three really excellent articles about the post process that the movie went through.
For those that don't know, large chunks of the movie were shot on IMAX and in fact in an IMAX theater the film switches between 35mm and IMAX shots. This was the first hollywood film to integrate significant IMAX, and the post workflow is pretty incredible - my favorite quote:
â€śFilmmakers increasingly want us to work in 4K, and that used to be a big deal,â€? he says, and then laughs. â€śAfter working on 5.6 and 8 resolution, 4K is proxy resolution.â€?
July 23, 2008
XDCam NLE workflow guides
Sony has posted a collection of guides to using their XDcam products with various non-linear editing applications.
I didn't see any amazing secrets revealed in the Final Cut guide, but it's a nice document to have.
July 22, 2008
So why was the opening scene of Casino Royale so macroblocky?
Sony has announced a new multicodec HD encoder for BluRay authoring. Starting at $55k, it's a bit of a splurge for the hobbyist, but I bet it comes in a very attractive box.
High end compression tools do some amazing stuff though, like the ability to customize compression parameters on a frame-by-frame basis, after the encode, without re-encoding the rest of the stream. Sexy.
July 21, 2008
Pond5 launches stock video site
Just a plug for some friends - Pond5 has officially gone live. They're a stock video site, where any videographer can sell their content at prices set by the videographer. You get 50% of the profits, customers can get great footage at HD resolutions, with even higher end formats coming soon.
If someone with an EX1 were looking to make some money without too much extra effort, it's not a bad option.
June 5, 2008
Sanyo Xacti HD1010
Sanyo has done a minor version bump to the Xacti HD1000, creating the HD1010. It appears to have improved compression, slow motion mode and some new bundled accessories. My favorite sub-$1000 HD camera just got better. Hizzah!
April 11, 2008
BBC HD Delivery Specs
I found this pretty interesting - the spec sheet of do's and don'ts for producing HD content for the BBC. They're pretty hardcore - shoot DVCProHD or better, post in ProRes or DNxHD, deliver on HDCam SR.
April 2, 2008
The NAB hype is in full swing. The most recent spam blast was from a company called Pixellexis, pimping a new product called RedBox. What does it do? Well, it makes your rendering faster. Via magic. Or something?
March 18, 2008
Avid knifes Xpress Pro, drops the price on Media Composer
Avid announced today that they're discontinuing the Xpress Pro line of editing software, and cutting the price on Media Composer to $2495 from $4995. Students can purchase it for just $295.
Very interesting news. This means the least expensive Avid editing platform is double the cost of the Final Cut Studio bundle. Presumably for most folks in the business, $1200 isn't a huge deciding factor one way or another, but it may be a sign that Avid doesn't see as much value in the lowest end customers as they'd hoped.
March 12, 2008
DR60 and FCP - followup
Apparently the URL hasn't been working to get the plugin for FCP to support the Sony DR60.
Here's a link that works.
YouTube API is a whole bowl of awesome
YouTube has announced a really extensive API which lets you upload videos, add/update metadata, and do pretty much everything else you'd hope to find in a YouTube API.
February 22, 2008
Sony releases FCP plugin to handle M2T files
The Sony DR60 and the new "Memory Recording Unit" (as part of the HVR-Z7U) return standard M2T files in HDV mode. That's a problem if you want to use them with Final Cut.
Or, it used to be. Today they've released their plugin to rewrap M2T files in Quicktime to work with Final Cut. This was mentioned in the Final Cut 6.0.2 release notes, but was previously unavailable.
February 14, 2008
Screenflow - screencasting with zazz!
Vara software has just released a new screencasting application called ScreenFlow. It combines the features of a typical screencasting like SnapzPro or iShowU, with the ability to bring in onscreen video from a camera, as well as some neat 3d transitions and all.
Screencasting is becoming increasingly popular as a teaching tool, and this looks set to make the process simple and very attractive. Cool.
February 13, 2008
DNxHD approved as a standard
I wasn't aware Avid was trying to push this as a standard, but Engadget has the news that SMPTE has approved DNxHD as a standard, called VC-3. DNxHD is similar to Apple's ProRes422, though many folks consider it to be slightly higher quality. It'll be interesting to see how this gets adopted - having a high quality, cross platform interchange format sure would be nice.
February 8, 2008
Apple pulls out of NAB - what the heck?
Just plain strange. Apple has now confirmed that they won't be attending NAB this year, after having recently upgraded to a larger booth to fill the spot vacated by Avid. Recession fears? NAB dying? Who knows. Will Adobe be the next to pull out?
December 18, 2007
Quicktime 7.3.1 ruins Christmas for many
Let us step back for a moment. Quicktime plays Flash files? Yup, Quicktime will playback SWF files that are compatible with Flash version 5 or earlier. They can also be embedded as tracks within other quicktime files. Many content producers take advantage of this to add interactivity to Quicktime movies.
Needless to say, an update suddenly removing that capability has created some serious issues for a number of users. No warning, no downgrade path and no comments about workarounds. Sounds like classic Apple to me. Jerks.
December 11, 2007
Get paid to post on Youtube
Youtube has expanded their previously very limited program of cutting content producers in on ad revenue. This is good for folks who are already planning to post their content on Youtube, though it's probably not your path to web2.0 riches.
December 4, 2007
Flash with files from Compressor
Ok, first discovery - Flash doesn't seem to support compressed headers on Quicktime H264 files. Just choose 'fast start' and you'll be all set.
Adobe sends down some love
Adobe released Flash Player 9 Update 3 today, which includes official support for H264 video and AAC audio. That's about the nicest thing I've heard all week. OK world: upgrade now. On2 be damned.
November 14, 2007
Sony announces a load of new HDV gear
Sony has announced two new HDV cameras and a new HDV deck. StudioDaily has a nice roundup, but it looks like Sony's really got some winners here.
Fully buzzword compliant - 24p, XLR in, record to tape or compact flash, etc. Not a whole ton of other info available right now, but I think Sony is trying hard to win back my heart.
Avid AWOL from Annual Association Activity
If all of my titles were alliterative ... that'd be awesome.
Avid announced yesterday that they're not going to show up at NAB 2008. No booth, no shouty presenters, no pretentious representatives ...
So what's this all about? Avid has had a bad year (sizable losses) and may see the expense of NAB as not worth the return. That's one option. Option two is that this could be a signal that NAB is on the decline. Apple hasn't officially booked a booth yet either. NAB has been growing so much though, it's hard to imagine that's the case. I guess we'll see come April.
November 1, 2007
Panasonic gone wacky
Uhh. Panasonic? Dudes? You're making my eyes bleed.
Welcome everyone, to the Panasonic AG-HMC70, by far the ugliest camera I have ever seen. Seriously, I hope there's an aftermarket bodykit for this or something. Maybe with some ground effects and flared wheel arches ...
Oh yeah, it's a three chip, AVCHD camera that records to SD cars with an OIS leica lens. So that's all pretty neat. You get XLR jacks plus both an LCD and a viewfinder. AVCHD is still a bit of a funny format - I've seen very good AVCHD, and very bad AVCHD. Hopefully this tilts towards the former.
No price on this yet, though I'd expect it to come in under the HVX-200. Which really begs the question of why Panasonic, which has thrown all of its weight in the prosumer and professional field behind P2 and DVCProHD/AVC-Intra, would jump into the market with an AVCHD camera recording to SD. So very confusing.
October 16, 2007
Here comes Leopard
Update: $116 with the educational discount? Excuse me? Gee thanks Apple, $15 off. What a deal.
October 9, 2007
Google gives monetizing YouTube yet another go
Maybe I just have a faulty memory, but it sure seems like we've heard a handful of stories since Google bought YouTube about their imminent attempts to monetize the service. But anyways, here's another go, adding non-video ad content around the video content. They're giving the content producer a cut, which is nice, but I imagine for most regular content producers the numbers will be insignificant compared to traditional advertising placement.
September 12, 2007
Sony HDV at IBC
Sony has announced a pair of interchangeable-lens cameras at IBC (announced might be too strong a word... previewed?). Take a look at the rundown from some dude's blog.
The little guy is pretty cute. Smallish CMOS chips, but you can swap the lens, including adding SLR lenses with the right adapter. I haven't seen US press releases on these yet, nor model numbers, so I wouldn't expect anything concrete until NAB08.
Now with 50% more Piratability!
Apple released a new product, Logic Studio, today. It's a package containing an updated version of Logic (Logic 8), a new live music application called MainStage, Soundtrack Pro 2 and a bunch of effects and software instruments. It's all very exciting, particularly MainStage. Mainstage aims to provide a stable, reliable basis for doing live performances with software instruments and effects.
I find it very interesting that one of the eight highly touted features of Logic 8 is that you no longer need a hardware dongle. Just... interesting.
September 4, 2007
Oh yeah, RED shipped. It does some of the stuff they said it'd do. Check out HDForIndies for the full fanboi rundown.
I'm a huge fan of the Xacti line. I think for anyone who just needs to document events, cameras like the Xacti are brilliant. I took an HD1 to Italy and China and used it all the time. So, it's exciting to see that they've introduced a new model, the HD1000.
The featureset is similar to the existing HD2, but it's now got a 1920x1080 imager, giving you true 1080i imaging. It's a bit on the spendy side, with an estimated retail of over $1000, but they tend to drop in price pretty quickly.
More info on the HVR-HD1000U
Camcorderinfo has a nice article on the HVR-HD1000U. The real scoop? They took the consumer-grade HDR-HC7 and put it in a bigger box. No XLR, consumer-grade chips, etc. It's still a lot of camera for <$2000, but it's not the be-all and end-all. Oh well.
August 23, 2007
Sony HVR-HD1000U Shoulder-mount HDV camera
August must be drawing to a close - there's actual news to talk about! IBC is just around the corner, so it's not too surprising.
Sony has formally announced the HVR-HD1000U shoulder-mount HDV camera, which was previewed as "future technology" at NAB this year. Don't let the form factor fool you, the lens isn't interchangeable (that'd compete with XDCam, duh).
Here's the odd part though: it's a 3 CMOS camera with many of the features of the V1U (fake slow-mo), and yet the press release lists the MSRP at $1,900. That's less than half the price of the V1U - about the same price as the diminutive A1U. So, the question must be asked: did Sony make a typo in the press release? Is this really a $19,000 camera? At $1900 it's a ridiculous steal, at $19,000 it's a complete rip-off.
August 21, 2007
Adobe bring H.264 to Flash
Update: Here's more info from a Flash developer.
July 26, 2007
Sony HDV "video walkman"
There are many folks with fond memories of the Sony DSR-V10, a small clamshell DVCam deck with an integrated monitor. They were great for in-the-field viewing, and also for use with lipstick cams and other devices without integrated recording. Well, there's now an HDV successor, the GV-HD700E. Notice however, that it'll only record to HDV when you feed it a signal over firewire - no component inputs (just like the HVR-1500). Lame, Sony.
June 15, 2007
Drobo is taking over the world!
If anyone wants to learn how to market a product in the 21st century, look no further than Drobo. First off, a bit about why it's so cool (and why I'm going to buy one) and then I'll explain how amazing their marketing has been.
Drobo is an external storage solution which uses RAID-like technology to protect your data. What makes it cool is that it can be dynamically expanded, without reformatting, and supports mixing and matching of various disk sizes. So the deal is that you connect it over USB2, pop in whatever SATA disks you have lying around, and it creates a single large volume for you. Any one of those disks can fail catastrophically without you losing access to any of your data. When that happens, you just pop in a new disk and it keeps humming along. Similarly, when you start to run low on storage space on the array, it'll turn on a light next to the smallest drive in your array, queueing you that it's time to upgrade. Just pop the smallest disk out and pop a larger disk in. Magically, you've got more space in your volume.
I'm excited about it for two reasons. One, I've got five external disks hooked up to my Powermac at home, along with two internals. Around 1.8tb of space overall. About 1.5tb of that is totally unbacked-up. That's a bit scary. It's also annoying to have data spread across seven different volumes. So, I'm looking to get a Drobo populated with two 500 gig disks and two of my existing 250 gig disks. It'll give me just about a terabyte of usable, redundant storage, which is a pretty good start.
So, it's obviously a pretty cool product. But why the buzz? Because this company is very clever.
Their marketing began (as best as I can tell) with a video on YouTube, demonstrating the ways the array reacts to having a drive removed, replaced, etc. From there, they got samples into the hands of the influential tech bloggers and podcasters - DL.TV, Leo Laporte, Engadget, Scoble, etc. Suddenly every blog I read and podcast I listen to is talking about this device like it's the second coming. This morning I got an email from MacConnection telling me how awesome it is. The marketing must be working because the device is apparently pretty hard to find in stock at the moment.
Clever Kids at Kodak
Kodak has announced a new sort of filter to go on CMOS or CCD sensors to replace the existing "bayer pattern." For those who don't know, a CCD or CMOS chip is inherently only sensitive to variations in brightness, not to colors themselves. In order to get around that, you either need a three chip camera (with each chip filtered to just received red/green/blue light) or you need a bayer pattern on a single chip. Essentially a bayer pattern is just a grid of very small filters, so each pixel on the sensor is only receiving one of the three primary colors. A true RGB image can later be reconstructed by interpolating the pixels.
The new Kodak filter ads a "clear" filter to the existing bayer pattern, which allows for much greater light sensitivity. In essence, it's like adding a "luma" pixel to the RGB pixels. Pretty clever!
June 5, 2007
New MacBookPros, hoorah
Apple released new 15" and 17" MacBook Pros today. Plenty of upgrades: Santa Rosa chips, 2gigs of ram standard, Geforce 8600M GPUs. The 15" gets LED backlighting, while the 17" gets the option for a higher res screen - 1920x1200, the same as the 23" cinema displays. That's a really huge feature, both for folks working with video (it means you can view 1080i at 1:1 resolution) and for normal users. Personally, I find the 23" has just about enough screen realestate to productively multitask, so I'm excited about that many pixels in a laptop.
I'll be very excited to see LED backlighting in person as well, as it's supposed to be pretty beautiful. The 15" also picks up a little extra runtime thanks to the lower power backlighting, so Apple estimates 6 hours of battery life. Nice.
May 21, 2007
HDMI cable talk
Yes, I'm on vacation, but RSS feeds never sleep.
I just wanted to link to this article, about HDMI cabling. The stuff about HDMI doesn't really concern me, and I think they miss the real reason for doing HDMI versus HD-SDI in consumer gear (the signal processing is cheaper). I like it because it's a really readable article about impedance and the other factors that go into cable design.
Don't forget the travel blog either.
May 17, 2007
Final Cut Studio 2 is shipping
Yesterday, copies of FCS2 started going out. It looks like the upgrade versions aren't out yet, just the full retail version. Exciting nonetheless.
May 3, 2007
I'll be doing a bigger post on how this works, but for now, check out my post over at the MM blog about our new captioning support in Media Mill.
As an aside, I hate Flash.
Really hate Flash.
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 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
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 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 2, 2007
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.
March 27, 2007
Adobe Announces CS3 everything (for realz)
As expected, Adobe made their official CS3 announcements today. Check out their press page for the full rundown of press releases.
For most folks, CS3 is exciting because it means native-intel support on the Mac. The Mac also gets the first version of Premiere in a while, along with the new Soundbooth DAW program. The new "Photoshop CS3 Extended" gains some other interesting features, which FXGuide has summarized. As a taste - you can now import a movie into Photoshop and then paint on each frame, sequentially. Nice.
Product rollout starts in April, continuing through third quarter 2007.
March 26, 2007
This is one of those products that gets announced four or five times, but Telestream put out a press release on their new Pipeline product.
Here's the gist - it's an SDI to DV25/50/etc converter, with a twist. Instead of outputting over firewire, they output to ethernet. So, you can move your capture away from your playback. That's pretty neat. There are all kinds of scenarios in which that's a useful ability to have. Plus, any time you can move more data to a standardized infrastructure within a facility, that's nice.
I know some more about this product, but I don't think I'm allowed to say yet. Check back after NAB.
March 23, 2007
Apple TV Hacking
I've been avoiding posting the various bits of Apple TV news over the past few days, as it's mostly just "Apple TV is shipping" and "Apple TV reviews are out."
However, there's some big news today. Someone has done some digging into what's on the harddrive in the Apple TV and found that it's an OSX derivative that will run normal intel binaries. Here's the duggmirror copy of the original Something Awful post. I suppose it's possible that this is a fake, but I'm not so sure.
The gist is that they pulled the drive, mounted it on a mac, installed Perian and Dropbear, put it back together, and now are able to playback previously unsupported video file formats. So, the Apple TV runs a stripped down OS X with a functional version of Quicktime. It may be worth picking one up just to play with, even though I don't have a TV ...
March 19, 2007
Adobe Apollo - a netapp SDK
March 8, 2007
Photoshop for Film and Video?
Adobe has announced that they're going to be announcing a product called Photoshop CS3 Extended. Among other things, their little blurb implies that it's designed to work with motion graphics and 3d models. I don't really know what that means - just a few extra features, or are they gunning for ZBrush and related products? I guess we'll know on the 27th...
March 7, 2007
My Insides Look Funny
I broke my back on Saturday. I was sledding, then I was airborne, then I was in an ambulance. It was pretty exciting.
While in the ER, I went through the normal round of Xrays and CT scans. Because I needed to go do a followup on said injury, I ended up having to pick up a copy of these Xrays and CT scans to transfer to the appointment. In a very cool twist of modern medicine, instead of picking up films I picked up a CD-R containing all my data. Being an enterprising fellow, I made a copy of said CD. Follow the jump for more of me!
The CD comes with all of my data, along with an eFilm reader. Not only does this allow me to look at the 2d images, it allows you to build a full 3d model of the CT scan data, and then fly around it. You can also animate all of the individual CT scan slides to create a "fly" through your body. I've got videos to demonstrate.
First, here's the Xray, exported from the eFilm reader. This isn't the full resolution version, which is 2000x3000 pixels.
For the aspiring doctors in the audience, the fracture is in the L1 vertebra, which is the fifth one up from the pelvis.
Next, you can fly through my body!
And finally, some screencapture video of me manipulating my spine in 3d.
Note that the aspect ratios on all of these is a little off, as I don't feel like creating special CT scan-sized Flash presets for Media Mill...
March 5, 2007
Nvidia announced stupidly huge graphics card
Nvidia has announced a 128 core graphics card aimed at high end film and video editors. This seems to lend some credence to the rumor that Apple will be announcing a "Final Cut Extreme" hardware/software solution at NAB. With retail prices ranging from $2000 to more than $3000, you can start to see how such a solution could reach five digits.
Who knows what the impact of this will be, but it's definitely an interesting possibility to consider.
CS3 coming March 27th
Appleinsider is reporting that Adobe Creative Suite 3 will be released on the 27th of March. This is a big deal, as it will bring native Intel support to the Adobe creative apps. I've been running Photoshop CS3 on my MacPro since the beta was released and it's a definite improvement.
March 27th was a day that had been supposed as a potential Leopard launch date. I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple do some sort of announcement in conjunction with Adobe, but I'd guess they're more likely to do speed-bumped MacPros and Macbook Pros to coincide with CS3. Leopard may not be as close to shipping as many had hoped.
February 21, 2007
More video training podcasts
We're posting some more video training podcasts. To get the rss feeds, check out the previous post, or if you'd like to subscribe via iTunes, click below.
Thanks go to Mark Heitke, Deb Moe and Tim Nelson for their work on these videos.
February 20, 2007
Affordable Studio HD on the Horizon?
It's February, but we're already in the run-up to NAB. Sony had a deluge of press releases today. Among them was one in particular, about the new HDC-1400 studio camera. It looks to be an HDC-1500 that only does 1080i60 and 720p60 and lacks a few other features. Suggested list is $65,000, which is about $30,000 under the list for the HDC-1500.
Along the same lines, Panasonic recently announced the AK-HC3500. Spec-wise, it's right in the same ballpark, though it lacks 720p support. No pricing has been announced, but I'd guess $50k.
It's really exciting to see studio HD cameras coming down to the sub-$100k range. Getting to the point of being able to have a whole camera system (camera, lens, viewfinder, CCU, RCP) for less than $100k will be a big deal. Depending on what retail is on either of these models, it may not be far off.
February 15, 2007
Final Cut Update
Apple pushed FCP 5.1.3 today. Looks like a very minor bugfix release, but perhaps it has super secret hidden features!
Free tapes from Sony
I was going to ignore this promotion from Sony, but I did a bit more reading and realized it's actually a pretty sweet deal. If you've purchased any high end HDV camera between August 1, 2006 and now, you can get 5 free HDV Master tapes. That includes the Sony cams (Z1U, A1U) as well as the Canon XH and XL cams and the various JVC models. Sweet! Now, to find those invoices ...
Iditarod shot on P2
All that aside, I'm a bit confused. It seems to me that P2 is about the worst possible format for this type of shooting. They shot 140 hours of footage. On a format that can get at best about 25 minutes per 8gig card, that seems like a really painful way to shoot. I understand that the no-moving-parts thing is nice in -40 degree weather, but wow, it seems like that'd be a hard shoot to pull off without a limitless supply of P2 cards.
February 14, 2007
Quantum Computing for the Sudoku-Playing-Masses
February 13, 2007
AACS not cracked (again)
Another day, another round of misleading headlines (gotta love digg) about the destruction of AACS. I spent some time this morning reading to the specs, so I now have a pretty good idea of what's going on.
The reason for this latest round of headlines is that a new hacker over at doom9, arnezami, has been digging deeper into the different keys used by AACS. Up until this point, if you wanted to make a decrypted copy of an HD-DVD or BluRay disc, you used PowerDVD or WinDVD on your Windows computer, did a memory dump, looked through the dump for the title key, and went about your merry way. Folks have even written tools to make this memory dump / hunt process automatic.
In the long term, this isn't a particularly sustainable solution. The AACS folks will just revoke the device keys for PowerDVD and WinDVD, forcing users to download updated versions. The updated versions will take more care to hide the title key, and despair will spread throughout the pirate community.
With this bleak future in mind, arnezami went investigating alternatives. What he found is the Processing Key, which is essentially an AES'd combination of the device key and the appropriate elements of the Media Key Block. Don't worry if I've lost you, this bit isn't all that important. The processing key doesn't inherently reveal which device key it is spawned from.
The processing key is a major chunk of the decryption process. It is a universal decryption key for all titles, with a big caveat that I will mention later. In order to make use of the processing key, you also need the Volume ID. This is essentially a 128bit string that is unique for each HD-DVD or BluRay title. According to the AACS specs, it should be random, though it appears that many replicators haven't been following this quite to the letter - the Volume ID for Serenity for instance is "SERENITY ". Clever.
Unfortunately, recovering volume ids isn't proving to be significantly easier than recovering title keys at the moment. The volume ID is stored on a special part of the disc which can't be read directly via software. In order to recover it, you have to nicely ask the drive to read it and pass it along. For now, that means using a USB sniffer to watch the bus traffic as your software player retrieves the volume ID. The AACS spec actually has this circumstance accounted for as well, with a specification for bus encryption of the volume ID transfer, but nobody has implemented this process yet.
So, what's this mean? Is AACS destroyed? Afraid not. If someone can come up with a clever, self contained mechanism for retrieving Volume IDs, it may make widespread HD-DVD/BluRay ripping easier, as there won't be any need to hunt for an already decrypted title key. Barring that however, you'll still need to find or be told the volume id before the processing key is of any use to you. At that point, why not just find or be told the title key and skip a few steps?
Truth be told, the only circumstance in which having the processing key is useful is if the AACS folks really don't know which player generated the key, and thusly don't know which player to deactivate. However, since the AACS folks do know all of the device keys that they've assigned, it should be pretty easy for them to calculate all the various processing keys and come up with the renegade player. And even if that weren't the case, I don't think they'd have qualms about just revoking all of the device keys for the software players on the market, forcing an update with better security.
Realistically, AACS will only be truly dead if someone comes up with a master list of all of the device keys (leaked from the AACS folks). The encryption itself isn't under threat - AES with 128bit keys isn't going to be brute forced any time soon. However, if talented hackers can keep making trouble by figuring out ways to rip these discs, it may eventually become cost prohibitive to keep deactivating device keys. When folks start sniffing hardware keys from expensive home theater units, it'll get even more interesting. Maybe it's time to just give up on this DRM thing?
3GSM is where the fun is
The big 3GSM trade show is going on right now, so there are tons of fancy new cellular handsets dropping. If you're into that sort of thing, I suggest you take a gander at Engadget Mobile. iPhone or bust!
February 12, 2007
Rent a High-Speed Camera!
A few months ago, I researched purchasing a high-speed video camera. I stopped researching when I realized that they run $50,000 and up. That's why I'm excited to see that AbelCineTech is now renting Phantom high speed cameras. If only I lived on the coasts...
February 7, 2007
Hey All - Podcast 3 is up. Hoorah.
Canon HV20 Review (In Japanese)
It's interesting to learn that it supports the xvYCC color space over HDMI, which has a significantly broader spectrum of viewable colors, as compared to sRGB. There are a number of displays hitting the market now that can take advantage of the wider range of colors, so it's nice to see devices capable of outputting it.
February 6, 2007
Jobs on Music
Apple.com has published an article written by Steve Jobs called "Thoughts on Music," discussing the current state of online music sales, DRM, and the world of copyright. Very interesting - nothing new per se, but very interesting to hear it coming from the head of the biggest online music store.
January 31, 2007
Lots of Media Mill updates
Canon HV20 officially announced
News of the HV20 was leaked a few days ago, but now it's official. The Canon HV20 is in the same product line as the HV10 consumer HD camera. The HV20 is a different form factor, looking to be similar to the Panasonic GS line of small consumer cameras, rather than the palmcorder look of the HV10. The primary feature added to the HV20 is 24f support. The HV10 could play back 24f tapes from an XLH1/XHG1/XHA1, but couldn't record in 24f. That makes it a pretty tempting choice for beginning filmmakers who want a higher-end look. I would guess that it'll street for $899, which makes it a pretty nice choice for folks who are serious about their video, but working on a limited budget.
January 16, 2007
Apologies and MacWorld roundup
Sorry for going silent for the last few days. Zero hours of sleep at MacWorld, combined with real-world work kind of caught up with me.
MacWorld was a blast, thanks to all those I met there. Aside from the obvious Apple announcements, the big star for me was the Axiotron ModBook. It really is beautifully engineered. I really hope to get a couple to use with ScopeBox. Check the link if you don't know what I'm talking about.
The LAFCPUG meeting was a good time, though all of us were dead tired by that point in the week so it was a bit hazy. We did some renegade ScopeBox promotion, which was a blast, and had good reactions throughout. I bit my tongue and didn't say anything nasty to the folks from Focus Enhancements. Go me!
Now I'm back at the University and the semester is in full swing. NAB is only a few short months away, and there should be some pretty exciting things in the meantime.
CES didn't bring a lot of exciting announcements for the prosumer/professional video production world. Sony released a slew of new consumer-level HDV cameras, recording to all manner of media. Half of them are AVCHD (recording to mini-DVD) and the rest are HDV (recording to mini-DV). Otherwise, there's not a ton of stuff that caught my eye. Aside from the iPhone of course ...
January 9, 2007
Ok, I'm a bit sleep deprived, but man-oh-man was that amazing. Steve was giddy! Everyone in the audience was giddy!
January 8, 2007
I have been to Mecca
We drove down to Cupertino today to do some testing of Scopebox at Apple's developer labs. I'm not sure how much I can say without breaking NDA, but just imagine a room full of one of every machine that Apple has sold in the last decade. They open the door, and say "let us know if you need anything" and that's it. Rad.
Other than that, San Francisco is an amazing place. I love it here. Keynote tomorrow - line up at 4am. I'll be wearing a Scopebox shirt if you're there.
January 7, 2007
I'm off to the airport, on my way to MacWorld San Francisco. I'll be posting from SanFran, but if you want to keep up on the latest news from this weeks' trade shows, I recommend Engadget for CES coverage and MacRumors for MacWorld coverage.
January 4, 2007
Blu-Ray and HD-DVD Combo Player?
Engadget claims that LG is going to debut a dual format Blu-Ray / HD-DVD player at CES. This would be a huge step towards resolving this stupid format war, so let's hope that they do. Engadget is a bit skeptical in regards to LG's ability to follow through.
Premiere comes back to the Mac
It's been rumored for a while, but Adobe is about to officially announce the return of Premiere on the Mac platform. Macworld has the scoop. Looks like I'll get to play with it at Macworld next week (assuming my head hasn't exploded from the joy of the keynote).
This is exciting, not because I'm a huge fan of Premiere, but because it again shows Adobe's faith in the Mac platform, and it provides that much more incentive to bring users over from Windows. That said, Premiere Pro 2.0 is a pretty decent program. It's not quite Final Cut, but it does have the benefit of tight integration with After Effects and the other Adobe applications.
From the look of the single screenshot, it looks like they're not tying it too heavily to the OS, which makes some sense. If you notice, they've got all their palettes situated within a single OS X window, rather than being truly free-floating. I would assume that limited integration holds true on the backend, so it will be interesting to see how codec issues are dealt with. It'll be interesting to see it next week.
[Update:] The press release is now available, and in the release Adobe makes it clear that they intend to ship Encore for the Mac as well. That's seriously good news, as Encore nicely fills a space between DVD Studio Pro and iDVD.
January 2, 2007
Scopebox is For Realz Yo
I hope you've all been saving your pennies, because after 9 months of work, Scopebox is being released tomorrow, January 3rd. You'll be able to download a trial, find out how rad it is, and then purchase your copy.
If you're not convinced, check out this glowing review at Behind the Frame. Hoorah!
December 30, 2006
AACS cracking - here's the deal
Earlier this week, news broke that someone had "cracked" the AACS DRM system used by both HD-DVD and BluRay. At this point, there hasn't been independent verification of any of this, but here's the deal as best as I understand.
A guy named muslix64 on the Doom9 forums figured out a way to extract title keys from HD-DVD discs, very likely using a vulnerability in Power DVD 6.5. He then wrote a decryption tool based on the publicly available AACS specifications. He released the software, including source, but did not release any title keys. He made hints that there is a fundamental flaw in the way title keys are handled, and that player revocation is unimportant. With player revocation, a flawed player (such as Power DVD, if indeed it is vulnerable) can be disabled from playing future discs.
It's interesting, if indeed it's true. There is no evidence that the AACS encryption itself is flawed, and indeed, that seems unlikely as it's essentially an implementation of AES. However, we know that using encryption for DRM on untrusted hardware is likely to have some vulnerability, if you're willing to dig deep enough. That is apparently what's happened here.
What does it mean? Not much right now. Muslix64 has disappeared, and nobody has been able to discover the relevant title keys at this point. If someone does recreate a title key extraction method, it would be an interesting alternative to the world of DVD cracking. Instead of having a DMCA-violating circumvention device in the form of DeCSS or any of the later decryption programs, you could instead have a totally legitimate decoder tool paired with some title keys. The legality of the title keys would be questionable - the court case would be very interesting. In any case, it's likely that you'd get your HD-DVD, check online to get the title key, paste it into your ripper and be done.
Give it 6 weeks and check again. This could be a blip, this could be the death of BluRay and HD-DVD. We'll see.
December 28, 2006
Sony HVR-1500 deck breaks my heart to little pieces
So first off, I find it shocking that the first mention I get of a new HDV deck is via a DVD mailed to me by Sony. I'm speaking of the HVR-1500, a new half-rack studio HDV deck. No links here, because Sony has no mention of it on their website. It sounds like it was announced in conjunction with the HVR-V1U camera.
So why does it break my heart? Because it's SO close to being what I really want. It's got expandable input and output options. One of those options is HD-SDI output. But input? Oh, I'm sorry, I'm afraid it's limited to SD-SDI. What?!
This is such blatant marketing-driven stupidity on the part of Sony. We can't have folks using HDV as a record format in a professional setting, that'd be crazy! So we best cripple the product.
I'm encoding the video they sent me to post here, so you can marvel at the greatness that Sony almost achieved. I'm going to be doing some shin-kicking at NAB this year ...
[Edit: Video Posted Below]
December 21, 2006
HDV is dead, long live HDV
There have been a few articles in the past week stating that the end of HDV is near. This article in particular goes into depth about the emerging intraframe formats which are vying for the low-end professional market.
I agree that AVC-Intra (note: AVC could be either inter- or intra-frame, don't assume!) and JPEG2000 are good options for compression going forward. They're both good steps forward, but I don't think they're HDV competitors. Let me explain.
At this point there are no "professional" HDV cameras on the market. The closest you get are the XDCamHD products from Sony, which are more or less HDV wrapped in MXF going onto an optical disc, with the ability to bump up the bitrate a little bit. All the other HDV cameras on the market are, in my opinion at least, consumer or pro-sumer level. JVC might argue a bit, but they're JVC so who cares?
The products being discussed in the Nordahl article are most closely related to the XDcamHD products. Neither AVC-Intra nor JPEG2000 are particularly well suited to tape based storage, at least miniDV style cassettes. The Panasonic and Grass Valley (respectively) cameras instead make use of different direct-to-disk recording options. AVC-Intra is just an i-frame-only version of H264, which itself is just a further development of the technology from MPEG-2. JPEG2000 uses wavelet compression and could be pretty impressive. I've never used it in production. Both are solid choices for higher-bitrate recording.
I don't think HDV is going anywhere soon. Getting away from LongGOP compression is a good idea in the long run, but for the low end of the market I think it'll have to wait until flash memory becomes much larger and much cheaper. I'm a firm believer that it will be difficult to penetrate the low end of the market without the ability to easily swap media in the field, without lugging along a laptop. That means being able to carry a pocket full of flash cards, preferably of some variety that can be purchased at a local Target or Best Buy when you're shooting in the field. P2 is a start down that path, but I think widespread adoption is still a ways off. Products like the Firestore are just bridging the gap until we can have proper direct-to-memory capture.
From a technical standpoint, I think we're just starting to see what HDV can do. For example, read Steve Mullen's article on smart GOP splicing. If you can avoid the generational issues of reencoding HDV, the remaining issues are based on processing speed. I wouldn't be surprised to see realtime HDV output over firewire in the next version of Final Cut.
Here's my predictions for recording formats in 2007 and 2008. For cameras under $10,000, HDV will remain the dominant force. The HVX-200 and successors will continue to embrace P2, but I think it'll be 2009 or 2010 before P2 is really practical in all situations.
For cameras from $20,000 - $50,000, you'll see a few formats. AVC-Intra will replace DVCProHD, as NLEs add support for that format. AVC-Intra has major benefits over DVCProHD with no downsides. XDCamHD will stick with the current setup through 2007, but in 2008 I'm expecting to see a higher bitrate recording system (XDCamHD2 or some such) which will add a non-GOP recording format. It'd be nice if it was JPEG2000, but I'm guessing it'll be SONY2000 or something stupid and proprietary like that. JVC will continue to push ProHD long past its sell-by date, and the HD100 will become a faded memory.
Above $50,000, I think what we've got today is pretty much where we'll stay, with the exception of DVCProHD being replaced by AVC-Intra. HDCam, HDCam-SR, D5 and the other "big tape" formats are with us for the long haul at this point. Various direct-to-crazy-raid turnkey solutions will probably begin to creep into this market space as well, but it'll be a slow process.
And me? I'll just go back to shooting Hi8.
December 19, 2006
Panasonic AV-HS300G - Portable HiDef switcher
Panasonic is now shipping the AV-HS300G, a DC powered HD/SD switcher. I don't know much about this product, but I've very interested. It doesn't look like it's as all-in-one as the Anycast, but the MSRP is $7999 which puts it in a whole different price range. This could be an ideal solution for doing field shoots with the canon XL-H1. You still need a separate way to record the video,
This demands more investigation.
December 18, 2006
The Life of a Travelling Freelancer
Stefan Sargent has written a good article for DV.com about his life as a traveling producer. He's a one man shooter-editor, and writes about his experience flying with gear, lighting on location with limited options and limited time. This gives a really good taste of one type of lifestyle in this business. Check it out.
December 16, 2006
The $13 dimmer
FresHDV has a little blurb about portable dimmers for field lighting. Turns out, Harbor Freight (they of the $20 miter saw) has a router speed control which can handle up to 15 amps. Perhaps for most lighting equipment that you'd be plugging into a home circuit. $12.49 is a heck of a lot better than the $100-$150 that a lighting supply house will charge.
December 14, 2006
Alex Lindsey has been Antiqued (Sony releases new 4:4:4 camera)
Sony has announced a new 4:4:4 1080p camera, the F23. It's essentially a modified F950 which adds the ability to dock with an HDCam-SR deck, and also support more camera attachments. The F950 and F23 live in the same market space as the Arriflex D-20, Grass-Valley/Thompson Viper and Panavision Genesis. Essentially, if you don't have at least a half million dollars, don't bother asking.
December 12, 2006
HDV Camera Rundown
Creativemac has a nice little overview of the current HDV cameras on the market. They don't really draw any conclusions, but they've got nice pictures. So, that's something I guess.
December 8, 2006
Youtube allows web-based recording
Wow. This is huge. Arstechnica has an article about the addition of a tool called Quick Capture to YouTube. Quick Capture allows you to record video directly within your webbrowser, storing it to youtube. No more capture->edit->upload steps, just record and go.
Frankly, I was always impressed that so many people were willing to go through the various steps needed to post a video on YouTube. This is going to be a huge addition to YouTube, especially for video bloggers.
They're making use of the various media abilities of Flash 9 in a pretty serious manner. I've seen similar apps for web conferencing (Breeze, etc) but this is a huge deployment. I wonder how they're dealing with media server licensing...
If only it would let me log in ...
December 1, 2006
Panasonic HPX2000 Camera announced
The Panasonic AJ-HPX2000 has been re-announced (sorry, can't find the official press posting). It's a 2/3" HD camera in an ENG body. It makes use of P2 cards, so it's sort of a big brother to the HVX-200. 24p is included as expected. There's one interesting item, which is that it can be switched between DVCProHD (their normal, 100mbps HD codec) and AVC-Intra, a codec of which I have no prior knowledge. It sounds like it's an H264 based intraframe codec which can achieve half the bitrate of DVCProHD at the same quality level. That's important for Panasonic, as the P2 card format puts a real limit on recording times. Note that AVC-Intra and AVCHD are not the same formats. Helpful!
November 17, 2006
First look at the Sony V1U
DV.com has a preview of the Sony HVR-V1U online. I'm very interested in this camera, as it seems like a pretty solid player in a part of the market that has long by dominated by "subpar" options. I'll be eager to get a chance to play with one. The DV.com article makes mention of the new CMOS chip setup in this camera. I think it will be interesting to see how the indie-film types adapt to the minor differences inherent in CMOS imaging. Curious.
By the way, I've got a bunch of reviews coming next week, including the Zoom H4, Sanyo Xacti HD1A, Presonus Firepod, Microsoft Zune and a few other cool toys.
November 15, 2006
The Fastest Editor ... in the WORLD
So what's the deal? Despite my sarcasm, it actually has some interesting features. Or at least, the marketing speak talks of some nice features. They claim to edit natively in any codec, without transcoding, and without worrying about mixed resolutions. So, instead of picking a resolution for your project before you start cutting, you just start cutting. If they can actually do it (we'll see) it's a pretty neat idea. Resolution independence is something that I'd love to see in Final Cut Pro sooner rather than later. Cutting natively with all the crazy formats that come off the internets is a bit more questionable - it seems like a recipe for glitches.
They've also got a fancy interface which appears to consist of the worst elements of Avid, mixed with a dash of Video Toaster and a pinch of TriCaster. Ugly.
Still, it's a curious product. Nothing they're doing is technically impossible, but it's the sort of thing that's really hard to do well, especially in a brand new piece of software. We'll see...
November 10, 2006
Tripods are one of those things that can be very difficult to judge objectively using just published information. Unlike a camera whose specs you can read and understand, finding a good tripod is much more subjective.
With that in mind, I was really happy to see that DV.com has published a large tripod review. They're looking at primarily high-end tripod systems, but there's still a lot of good information there. You might need to log in to access the article.
November 8, 2006
... "Why I don't care about AVCHD but maybe you should" ...
Panasonic has released a couple of new AVCHD-based camcorders, the HDC-SD1 and the HDC-DX1. The SD1 shoots to SD card, the DX1 shoots to 8mm DVDs.
Both of these cameras record in AVCHD, a format which appears to be gaining some traction in the consumer space. What is it? Essentially it's an H264-based recording format targeted at folks who don't have any intention of serious post production. Because H264 is not only long-GOP but also bi-directionally predicted, cutting it in an NLE is relatively problematic. But then, how many soccer-moms or nascar-dads are cutting their video of little Jimmy's baseball game? Not that many.
Anyways, I haven't paid much attention to these devices because I'm not convinced they're worth the trouble. For most people, digital cameras are quickly replacing separate camcorder devices, because the 640x480x30fps video that most digicams shoot is "good enough." For those who need a little more, something like the Sanyo Xacti HD1A is probably a more convenient device than a traditional camcorder form factor. I'll have one of those in for review in a few days, so we'll see.
In any case, I think AVCHD is an interesting format which I don't really care about. But perhaps you do.
Core2Duo Macbooks announced
Booo! Hisss! They antiqued my laptop. (It's like pimping my ride, but different)
Apple has announced Core2Duo based Macbooks, combining juicy Merom chips with ... well actually, it was really just a chip upgrade. The upper tier models ship with 1gb of ram now as well, which is a nice addition Additionally, the superdrive is dual-layer now.
This is a bit of a surprise to me, as we're getting awfully close to Christmas. I had expected Apple to hold off on any more product line updates until Macworld.
Despite what the specs might have you believe, these are actually quite capable laptops for video editing. Motion certainly isn't thrilled about running on mine, but if you're just working in your NLE, there isn't a ton of reason to jump up to the more expensive MacbookPro.
October 30, 2006
Apple 24hr Film Fest
For the students out there, check out the Apple 24hour Film Fest. Rock on with the coolness.
October 26, 2006
Oooooh SNAP, Adobe drops Soundbooth
Adobe has announced a public beta of a new product called SoundBooth. The idea is to take a big helping of Audition, along with a dash of Soundtrack Pro, and end up with an easy to use audio production tool for Video/Flash professionals.
It seems like it has potential. The interface follows Adobe's new palette design, and much of the rest of the look and feel reminds me of Audition or its ancestor, Cool Edit Pro. I'm not sure it's even fair to call it beta at this point, as it's obviously far from feature complete. At this point I can't see anything that would make it worth a second glance when compared to Soundtrack Pro, but I imagine there's a lot left to be added.
Interestingly, this product will ship for the Mac and for Windows. Even more interestingly, it's going to be Intel only on the Mac. Sorry PPC users, but that ship has sailed. Or at least, it will have by the time Soundbooth ships in (late) 2007.
It's very good to see someone, especially Adobe, choosing to compete directly with Apple on Apple's playground. Oftentimes if feels like Adobe is ceding the Mac market at the slightest hint of competition. As I believe we've seen with the Lightroom versus Aperture competition, both products are stronger because neither developer can get away with selling crap.
It'll be very interesting to watch where this goes. I've heard a faint rumor that Adobe may reemerge in the Mac video editing market down the line as well. Hmm.
October 25, 2006
Panasonic is (nearly) shipping 1080p plasmas
This is big news. Panasonic is now (almost) ready to ship their 50" and 65" plasmas capable of displaying a full 1920x1080 image. This is really important for HD monitoring. Now you'll be able to see every single pixel at a 1:1 resolution. There isn't a significant price premium for these, which makes them especially exciting.
But hey, it's just a plasma. Why so excited?
One of the things that causes me great pain on a daily basis is the death of high quality CRT monitors for studio use. Sure, you can still drop $43,000 on a Sony, but that's just a bit much, thank you.
LCDs are great, but they don't get very large at a realistic price.
I've often considered getting something like a Miranda Kaleido-Quad box, to combine a number of SDI/HDSDI signals into a single feed, and then using one large plasma for both program and preview monitoring. However, the relatively low resolutions of large plasmas had always put me off.
Now however, with decently priced 1080p plasmas a reality, this option is much more realistic. Since the Miranda box can jump between different layouts, you can setup a standard Program/Preview layout for production use, but press a button to jump to a single, full screen, pixel-for-pixel display of your 1080p video.
October 24, 2006
You've been Antiqued!
I'm afraid your shiny new Macbook Pro is now an antique. Might as well toss it to the curb and whip out the Visa.
That's right, new Macbook Pros have arrived! They're... slightly faster! Hoorah!
This is a fairly incremental upgrade. For buyers of the 15", the biggest upgrades are Firewire800 and a dual-layer DVD burner. I definitely approve of two out of the three models coming standard with 2 gigs of ram though.
October 19, 2006
Adobe buys Serious Magic
Ok, this is getting silly. I know it's almost the holiday gift buying season, but what's with all these corporate acquisitions in the video realm? YouTube, Silicon Color, Serious Magic ...
October 16, 2006
Apple acquires Silicon Color
In somewhat interesting news, Apple has acquired Silicon Color. I really respect the FinalTouch product, and have always found the Silicon Color guys to be helpful. I hope this bodes well for them, and for users of Final Cut Pro or some future high-end correction suite.
October 10, 2006
Explanation of Bayer Patterns
There's a growing trend towrads using really large single-chip imaging solutions for HD cameras. Everything from our teeny-tiny Sony HVR-A1Us up to the RED make use of one really big chip with a Bayer pattern.
October 9, 2006
Got my Firestore Update
We received our Firestore FS4ProHD 2.0 firmware update disc today. Installation was straightforward, and it seems to work as promised. I captured 1080i60 HDV off the Canon XL-H1 with no trouble, and it happily opened in Quicktime. I'll post more once I've had a chance to play with some of the other new features. For now, it's all a boy could want (save for 24f support ...).
Canon XH-G1 footage
I wasn't going to post this as it seems kind of boring, but everyone else is posting it so I might as well too... There's footage up from the Canon XH-G1. This is the baby brother (along with the XH-A1) to the XL-H1 camera. Ooo and Aaah away...
October 8, 2006
Artemis Camera Stabilizer
DV.com has a nice review of the Artemis DV Pro camera stabilizer (not a SteadiCamâ„˘). I'm not familiar with this setup, but it looks very interesting. In particular, I like the integrated monitor and power cabling. The high quality screen is another major plus. It looks like it's good for cameras up to around 20lbs, which is pretty reasonable. Not as affordable as some of the lesser Glidecam systems, but still pretty snazzy.
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!
September 8, 2006
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.
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.
Furthermore, IBC starts this weekend. Anyone want to fly me to Amsterdam? We can expect more announcements from across the industry.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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.
August 1, 2006
Current.tv Seeds of Tolerance Contest
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.
July 28, 2006
Telestream has released Flip4Mac 2.1, which is a Universal Binary. So, Macintel users, rejoice, you may now watch WMV videos!
July 27, 2006
Canon HD Wide Angle Lens Announced Again?
In among the new camera news yesterday, there was a second press release from Canon about the HD wide angle lens for the XL-H1. It's been given a price ($2999) and a ship date (November) but doesn't seem to have been otherwise changed from the previous release about it, back 'round NAB. So, yeah. Exciting?
July 24, 2006
AMD buys ATI
AMD announced today its intent to buy ATI, a move that could have some interesting ramifications in the industry. It will be very interesting to see what sort of impact this has on Intel/ATI relationships - does it push more vendors into the Nvidia camp? I'm not sure it's such a great thing for consumers - the graphics industry is already far too homogenized. And hey, huge mergers between established companies always work out for the best, right?
July 21, 2006
Announcing QTInfo for public distribution
Perhaps this should go on the other blog too, but what the heck.
I'm making available the source for the QTInfo project which does a lot of the heavy lifting on the backend of Media Mill. This was my solution to break down the wall between PHP and Quicktime. It's a RealBasic project (rb2006r3) and makes use of the MonkeyBread plugins.
I wanted to note a few things which make the project interesting. Follow the jump for extreme geek content.
First off, it's a console application. After you build it in RB, you'll get a .app bundle, but what you really want is the binary executable named QTInfo in Contents/MacOS. Run that from the command line, and you'll get some usage information.
The next interesting thing is that it's not really a console application. (Hu?) You see, console applications in OSX can't access the Quicktime API, because it lives up in the Quartz neighborhood. So, this is an application that looks like it's a console app, but is actually talking to QT.
Because it's not really a console app, I have to write output to the terminal using System.debuglog. This means that, even though you see the output in your terminal, the output is really being written to stderr instead of stdout. You can always redirect the stderr to stdout by appending 2>&1 to the end of the command line.
Anyways, so what does it do? There are two switches, --getinfo and --getthumbnail. Getinfo will give you back the filesize (necessary for me because PHP can't filesize() files over 2gb), the framecount, the horizontal resolution, the vertical resolution and the framerate. Read the code for a discussion on getting the framerate - I try my best to get an accurate rate, but some files are very confusing.
The --getthumbnail switch takes in information about whether the video is anamorphic or not, how big you want the thumbnail to be, and optionally where in the video the thumbnail should come from. By default, it'll fetch a frame 1/3rd of the way into the video. The frame gets written (as a jpeg) to /tmp, and QTInfo returns the filename.
Video names must be specified with a complete path. It will also intentionally fail on MPEG-1 files and text files. You could turn that off in the isMovie() method.
Obviously it's not a full featured application - it's just enough to do what I need it to do - verify videos, get metadata, and generate thumbnails. But perhaps it will be a useful starting point for someone else.
July 20, 2006
M. Night Shaylfjdalfjdalalfjds Budgets
The Smoking Gun has an interesting writeup on the movie budgets of M. Night Shyamalan's productions, up to the current "Lady in the Water." Perhaps of most note to this audience is the complete rundown of the budget for The Village, which really helps show the details of what goes in to a major production.
July 19, 2006
YANHF (Yet Another New HiDef Format)
AVCHD was announced a while back, but today saw the release of the first (to the best of my knowledge) shipping camera using that format.
So, just when you were thinking that HDV, HDCam, DVCProHD, XDCamHD and the rest weren't confusing enough, here's a new format.
The cameras that have been announced are the Sony HDR-UX1 and HDR-SR1 (thanks Engadget) . The UX1 records to DVD, whereas the SR1 records to a built in disc. Surprise Surprise, the DVDs that you record will be playable in BluRay players, along with a computer (with special software).
As you might guess from the name, AVCHD uses MPEG-4 (AVC/H.264) to record your HD content. So, if you thought HDV was a pain to edit, get ready for a new load of fun.
To be fair, these cameras are very squarely aimed at the soccer-mom set - folks who want HD content to watch on their 50" plasmas when the family comes over for a visit. But frankly, I have nothing good to say about these cameras. Internal disks are the wrong way to go, in my opinion, as you've now got a fairly fragile, non-expandable bit that you're tied to for recording. Similarly, recording to a DVD format, especially in a proprietary DVD format, is rather disappointing.
Of course, I don't play soccer.
JVC HD110U arrives (HD100U version 1.0.1?)
Minor story, but worth noting that JVC has announced the HD110U HDV camera. As best as I can tell, it's not much more than a software update for the existing HD100U. I really hope that's not the case, or else there are sure to be some annoyed HD100U owners out there.
I know there's not much incentive for manufacturers to add features to hardware they've already sold, but it does bug me when something that could be delivered as a firmware update becomes a whole new product. I'm rather suspicious that this was largely the case with the DVX-100/A/B, and plenty of other cameras. I hope that mentality changes as the Camera/Computer wall continues to collapse.
Check out Conduit
Anyone who's into compositing should check out Conduit, a new plugin for Motion from dvGarage (which is essentially the PixelCorps). It adds nodal compositing to Motion, so that you can do Shake-style node trees to build your composite, but take advantage of Motion's realtime playback. The interface is well done, if not entirely HIG-complient.
In any case, if you're at all interested in high-end compositing, this is a great way to jump in. While the cost is less of an issue now that Shake is only $499, the interface of Conduit is much less overwhelming, so you can focus on wrapping your brain around nodal composites instead of learning an antiquated interface.
One imagines that whatever product succeeds Shake will be very similar to this.
June 28, 2006
Avid for Mac updates
Today Avid announced the shipment of Xpress Pro 5.5 for the Mac, providing HDV/DVCProHD support, along with various other feature updates.
June 22, 2006
This is really an addendum to the last post.
The ProApps update did add 1080p24 HDV support to Quicktime. This means that you can now capture with VirtualDVHS and use MpegStreamclip to convert those files to 24p HDV files. Then, edit your sequence preset to look like this:
Hit ok, double click the sequence in your bin, and bathe in the warm glow of native 24p HDV editing.
Next to test: footage off a Firestore, and whether the timing is actually right.
[Edit] Timing does seem to be right [/Edit]
[Edit2] 24F footage captured to a firestore and converted with MPEGStreamclip seems to work too [/Edit]
Well, that answers that
The ProApps update does not allow FCP to capture 24F off an XL-H1. Boo.
June 21, 2006
ProApps 2006-01 update
Tonight Apple shipped an update to ProApps (sort of the underlying glue for Final Cut Studio and Shake) which adds some sort of support for 24p HDV. The release docs talk about support for XDCamHD in 24p, but XDCamHD is just 24p on an optical disc. I'll have to give capturing from an XL-H1 tomorrow, but at least it's one step closer. Now if we could just get some news out of Focus...
Shake price drop
Just in case anyone missed it, Shake has gone Universal, and the price has gone from $2999 to $499 - $249 if you're academic.
In connection with that, they've also announced that Shake 4.1 will be the last major release of the product, with a future high-end compositor in the works to replace it. The buzz is that it'll be something akin to "Motion Pro," though one would hope that it would retain node-base editing.
May 25, 2006
Firestore FS-4Pro Update in June?
Focus says that the Quicktime HDV update for the FS-4Pro could ship in mid-June. Better late than never I suppose, and better than the answer their phone support gave me ("It'll be in the newspaper when it comes out" - ???).
May 18, 2006
Unfortunately I can't do https over GPRS, so there wasn't any posting happening while I was gone. Here's a roundup:
Macbook! Mine is black with a gig of ram and 100 gig drive. It left China today. Love me.
Final Cut Express Universal. Good news for a lot of folks buying iMacs and Macbooks. Still no word on the 24f Final Cut Pro update.
And ... that's it. Boring week eh?
May 12, 2006
Quicktime 7.1 - But I want more!
Quicktime 7.1 shipped yesterday. Overall, it's a nice little point release - improved performance, more control over export settings (deinterlacing, hoorah!) and a few other odds and ends.
First off, I'd really like to see FCP5.1.24 ship - or whatever version number they give the "technology demo" they were showing at NAB (and promising to ship that week). If they were very clever it'd be .24 though.
Second off, I'd really love to see Quicktime support HDV natively. Now, I know that Quicktime has always had an uneasy relationship with most things MPEGy in nature. I suspect that more than anything, it's been an ideological stance on the quicktime team's part - they believe that muxing all your content together is fundamentally wrong, and have just decided not to support it. I can't really think of any other reason why, after 15 years, Quicktime can't internally demux an mpeg transport stream.
In any case, Quicktime as it stands right now, knows nothing of playing back or capturing HDV content stored in a transport stream (which is also the way the content comes down firewire from your camera). This means that you can't capture HDV in quicktime, nor can you play back the video from a Firestore FS-4ProHD. Which makes me sad.
I'm pretty convinced that this is also the reason FCP has such jenky HDV support for capturing. If you've spent time working with it, you've noticed that you get an entirely different "Log and Capture" window when using HDV. Also, if you shark the process, you'll see that they're making calls in to TSDemuxer and some other components of the FirewireSDK. As best I can tell, the FCP team has had to write a whole separate capture/demux/decode chain in order to support HDV, because Quicktime isn't handling it for them. It just seems like The Wrong Way (tm), and it's especially obnoxious if you're trying to write an application which needs to decode HDV. *Cough*
Ok, enough rambling. I'm just so far behind on the blogging - my head has been filled with REALBasic code and end-of-semester nastiness.
April 26, 2006
Evertz makes me happy too!
I've been hunting for a good sync generator that can give me standard NTSC black, along with Trilevel sync for feeding HD. Videotek doesn't have anything in that realm, Tektronix can do it for around $10k, but today I found Evertz. They make the 5600MSC, which does everything I need, plus can be synced against GPS and then feed an NTP signal out to the rest of your network. I'm waiting for a quote, but I believe it's about half the cost of the Tektronix solution.
Yamaha makes me fall in love all over
Made an exciting discovery at Yamaha today. The My8 AES/EBU input/output card for the DM1000/DM2000 line, along with the O2R96, allows you to time your audio console against your house black burst. Even better, it'll then pipe out properly timed wordclock, so you can actually have synced digital audio.
This makes life about a million times easier for people doing digital audio in video facilities. I could throw out a whole half rack of AES/EBU retiming units!
So, anyone want to get me a couple DM1000s?
April 25, 2006
Actually, it wasn't a terribly exciting day at NAB - wandered through the central hall to look at all the grip gear, poked around a bit.
The coolest demo I saw today was Silicon Color's FinalTouch. Absolutely amazing color correction software to do realtime correction up to 2k with roundtripping to Final Cut Pro.
I'll post some more thoughts later, right now I need some crazy food.
April 24, 2006
More thoughts from day one
Got to play with the new Macbook Pro 17" machines today. They're absolutely killer. The price is amazing - for only $200 more than the 15", you get more ram, more disk a bigger screen and firewire 800. Now, just give me a 13.3"!
Haven't been able to find anyone at Sony who knows anything about their new HDV decks, but I'd like to find out if they support 24f.
Haven't found Tektronix yet either. Anyone know where they're at?
Haven't seen much that has totally blown my mind, but I'm also a very jaded little boy. I'll journey to the central and north halls tomorrow, so I can drool on dollys and cranes...
NAB Day One Update
Been trying to post all day, but for whatever reason ecto doesn't want to submit a post over a VPN connections. So, here's my summary of day one, condensed into one post.
Sometime this week, Apple will ship an update for Final Cut Pro to support Canon 24f and JVC 24p. They're running it in all the booths right now, calling it a community preview. There is talk of a major Apple announcement at 5pm tomorrow, though it's not clear whether it'll be anything more than "5.1.1 is shipping!"
Focus has announced a Firestore FS-C designed to work with the XL-H1. Their explanation of how it differed from the FS4pro was rather... ambiguous. No update on support for Quicktime within the FS4ProHD, aside from "It's coming soon!"
RED is an absolute joke. As in, I'm pretty sure they're just toying with the video industry. Their booth, which involved a tent that you had to swipe to enter, contained some milled metal "prototyped" that appeared, as best as I could tell, to be completely random. They had some posters talking about how they'll be supporting killer formats, but it sure seemed like more smoke and mirrors.
Biggest diss of the day (aside from one I'm not allowed to discuss) is Avid showing a screenshot of the iTunes video store, saying "most of these shows are cut on Avid!"
April 17, 2006
More cool stuff from the Pixel Corps
Check out Macbreak Episode 2: Video Compression for a nice walkthrough of Quicktime's compression options. Also, I recommend a new series from Alex Lindsay, This Week In Media, a sort of insiders show on media topics.
April 13, 2006
Macbook Pro Stomps a Dual G5?
Creativemac has some benchmarks up of a Macbook Pro (2.16) running Final Cut Pro 5.1 versus a Dual g5 running 5.0.4. The short story is that the Macbook Pro holds it own, and in some cases absolutely stomps the G5. Not terribly surprising - I'm a bit surprised the G5 did as well as it did actually.
I'm going to be seriously bummed if Apple doesn't give us some more Intel products at NAB. I had a vision the other night of a 13.3" Macbook in industrial blue. Please Steve?
April 10, 2006
Texas HD Shootout
I think their initial conclusions are pretty much in line with what I'd predict - the XL-H1 has the highest resolution of the sub-cine-alta pack, the HVX200 has the most organic picture, the JVC is nice but flawed and the Sonys look like Sonys. These are the sort of tests I want to be doing here...
March 31, 2006
Final Cut Pro 5.1 acknowledges the existence of the Canon XL-H1
No, it doesn't support 24f (Version 6 at NAB, right guys?), but at least the Late Breaking News document acknowledges that the XL-H1 exists, giving some hope that at some point in the future we may get full support. Hizzah!
March 7, 2006
Ok, I've never heard of this company before. That may be my own ignorance though. For-A has announced a portable HD/SD switcher with HDV, DV, SDI and HDSDI. It's called the 2M/E Hanabi and it's supposed to be "affordable". Sub $30k. Take a look at the spec sheet, and be amazed! They're definitely going on my "See at NAB" list.
Thoughts on Avid buying Medea
Meant to blog about this the other day. Avid announced that they purchased Medea. This, combined with Avid's purchase of Pinnacle Systems a year ago, makes me very curious about what Avid's longterm growth plan.
The first point that interested me is that the press release that apparently describes the purchase just talks about some new products that Avid/Medea will be selling. Avid doesn't have any documents that mention that they actually purchased the company (as best as I can tell). Medea links to the press release with the link "Avid Acquires Medea."
So, first off, it seems odd that Avid forgot to mention that they bought the company.
Next, Avid already had a pretty robust line of storage products. I'm not sure what exactly Medea adds to their capabilities - the Medea VideoRaid product isn't a direct competitor to the Apple xRaid - it's sort of in the next tier up, utilizing scsi discs at the expense of... well, expense.
Similarly, I haven't seen much in the way of integration between Pinnacle Systems and Avid.
So, is Avid pulling a Google/Yahoo, buying up companies so that other people can't have them? I'm starting to wonder. It is starkly different from the Apple approach, wherein a company that is purchased essentially ceases to have ever existed. Just... odd...
February 27, 2006
HVX-200 CCD Information
Those who are of a geekish bent might enjoy this article from DVXuser.com. It's an official statement from Panasonic on the design and implementation of the imaging block in the HVX-200. The brief summary is that they're using 960x540 CCDs which are intentionally misaligned from each other. This means that the Red CCD sees slightly different bits of light versus the Blue CCD and so on.
It's an interesting approach to dealing with HD on a small CCD. By using a lower resolution chip, they're able to have bigger pixels, and thus (theoretically) better low light performance. It does raise a couple concerns. Follow the jump to read more.
One of the major factors differentiating the HVX-200 from the Canon XL-H1 and Sony Z1U is the use of a progressive scan CCD. This allows them to generate a 24p image without having to do any deinterlacing.
Deinterlacing always (for most cases of "always") costs you some vertical resolution, no matter how clever the scheme. You're filling in information that wasn't captured. With the most basic deinterlacing algorithm (where you double every line) you end up with half the vertical resolution of a true progressive image. Using fancy math and whatnot, most deinterlacing routines are closer to 70% of the full resolution.
However, the chips on the Panasonic are already half the resolution of the chips on a camera like the XL-H1. So, it seems to me that you're losing much of the advantage of a true progressive chip. Yes, the chip offset should recover some of that, but the offset technique does strike me as cheating just a bit. I'm not quite sure why, maybe because I'm associating it with the kind of sneaky marketing that advertises a 3 megapixel still camera as being 8 megapixels after interpolation.
Additionally, one could make the case that the 4:2:2 moniker is a bit inaccurate when referring to the color sampling on this camera. It's perhaps more like 4:1.3:1.3 or some such. You're getting more samples in the codec, but that added sampling accuracy in the data stream doesn't necessarily correspond to sampling accuracy in the original image. I'll withhold judgement on that until I can shoot some tests and look at the individual channels.
Hey Pana, want to send me a loaner?
February 22, 2006
Real HDV Decks? I've gone all blurry
So, Sony just announced two new HDV decks, the M25U and the M15U. They look an awful lot like a DSR-11 and a DSR-25. They take large format and mini tapes, and have a boatload of other features that could fairly be described as rocking. The real question is, can they play back Canon and JVC tapes? Signs point to no, but we'll know more once there's more than just a press release.
February 21, 2006
Sony HDR-HC3 - HDV for less than $1500
Take a look at the press release about the new Sony HDR-HC3 HDV camera. It's ... not that great. But for $1700 msrp (less than $1500 retail one would imagine) it seems like a pretty decent camera for those situations where you really really need to toss a camera off a cliff.
Does anyone find it odd that Sony talks about "snuggling" in a camera press release?
The camera isn't shipping till April. NAB is in April. Maybe the HDR-HC1 will be joined by a Z3U and FX3 in April? Hmm ...
February 18, 2006
Interesting P2 Developments
Panasonic has announced a big brother to the HVX-200, called the HPC2000. 5 p2 slots and 2/3" CCDs in a traditional ENG style body. Pricing won't be available until NAB, but I'd guess between $20k and $30k. So, now we can have XDCam HD and P2 duke it out in the HD space. I'll write some more thoughts on the two later this week, having recently had a chance to play with the XDCam HD gear.
February 13, 2006
Final Cut 6 Rumors
It seems like we're starting to get some better indications of what can be expected from Apple at NAB. I would say it's at least 80% likely that we'll see a version bump on FCP, and presumably most of the related apps as well. Based on what I'm hearing, I expect:
- Handling of M2T files
- Native handling of MXF
- Better support in general for non-QT wrapped files
- Revamped color correction
- Revamped media management (please!)
One would hope there will be lots of other new and exciting features as well. I'd love to see some form of integration with Aperture, but I'm not sure how likely that is. Anyone have the inside scoop?
January 27, 2006
According to camcorderinfo.com, Sony is working on a new budget HDV camera, the HC3. Since the HC1 is retailing for around $1500 right now, while the HC3 doesn't seem to be much lower in spec than the HC1, if it came in at $1299 it might be, psychologically at least, a more reasonable camera for home movies. Of course the big news will be when one of these pushes below $1000. Then we can start throwing them off cliffs without worry ...
January 20, 2006
Good news for Firestore users
I somehow missed this in all the hubbub surrounding Macworld SF. Focus is going to be offering an upgrade to the Firestore FS-4pro in April (so... June) that will allow it to record HDV footage in a format that Final Cut Pro can deal with natively.
This is very excellent news!
January 11, 2006
Post MacWorld Roundup
So, another MacWorld has come and gone. I must say, it was a pretty good one. The big news is probably best covered by some of the more Mac-centric sites, but I wanted to post a few things that caught my attention.
First off, the new iLife suite looks pretty sweet (ha ha ha). The most significant new feature in my opinion is the Garage Band podcasting features, integrated with the iWeb software for posting a podcast. While folks at the University of Minnesota have UThink which provides an easy way to post podcasts, other folks aren't so lucky. I think it'll be a big hit.
The other iLife updates are less substantial from my point of view.
For me, the single most exciting bit was the announcement that the Pro Apps (Final Cut, Aperture, Logic) will all be universal binaries by the end of March. This has been one of my big concerns - from what I've heard, the move from OS9 to OSX was rather painful for Final Cut, and I was worried that the port to x86 would be similarly difficult. After talking with some reps from the Pro Apps group a month ago, that fear was heightened by their "we'll be on x86 someday" attitude.
Anybody who still has an older version of Final Cut will also be able to take advantage of the transition to Intel to upgrade to Final Cut Studio at a reduced rate as well. It remains to be seen whether the upgrade will apply to academic discount versions, but we can hope.
It's exciting to know that the next generation of the platform is now in the wild. It's an exciting time. Once the iMacs start arriving in the hands of end users, there will be much more to write about.
January 6, 2006
Rumor Rumor on the Wall (42" or 50"?)
For true Macintosh aficionados, the next 3 days are just about the most exciting time of the year. Only 3 days, 18 hours and 8 minutes until the keynote address at Macworld San Francisco! There are some interesting rumors this year. I'm expecting Intel iBooks and Mac Minis, some new form of living room integration and updates to iLife and iWork. If we got all that, it'd be very exciting. Anything more and I may just end up in a pool of my own drool...
January 4, 2006
So, we're in to the New Year now. CES is about to start, Macworld San Francisco is next week, and we're a mere four months away from NAB. This is an exciting time! So, what should we expect?
Macworld San Francisco may end up being the most exciting of the shows in many regards. If we see the first Intel macs next week, it will kick off the transition and make for some exciting times. If there's no Intel news, it will sure disappoint a lot of folks.
This post is really intended to start some discussion about what we expect at NAB. I think that 4K will be the big deal this year. Last year, it was clear that the transition to HD, from a vendor perspective at least, was basically over. There were already a few people beginning to play with realtime playback of 4K material on lower end gear. I expect that this year we'll see 4K being out in full force. There's lots of buzz on the net about the new RED camera. I'm personally unsure whether to believe it or not. The DVInfo Forums have quite a bit of discussion about it, with messages that claim to be from the various folks involved with the project. It sure seems fishy. But if it's for real, it'd be a pretty big deal.
Similarly, Thinksecret is now reporting that Apple will announce Final Cut Pro 6, as well as a new product called Final Cut Extreme. FCP6 is a pretty safe bet - NAB-announced upgrades have been the trend for a few years now. Final Cut Extreme is a bit less clear. First off, how will we abbreviate it? FCE is already taken. FCEx? Second, one of the powerful things about FCP is that it grows with your needs pretty well at this point - from DV to HD and beyond. Adding a third "high end" product would muddy the waters a bit.
I also really hope that we start seeing second generation HDV equipment. There is a huge need for dedicated HDV decks that are more than just stripped down camera tape transports. Give me something like a DSR-45 that can play back HDV and DV, including 720p24 and 1020f24 and the rest! Even better, give me a DSR-1500-style deck that does all of the above, plus has HD-SDI in/out and AES/EBU. Then I'll be in heaven.
Please offer your thoughts on what you think will be coming in the first half of this year!