Friday, October 16, 2009

News: October 16

No Canon 7D Firmware update in sight
According to Jared Adams at Cinema5D the firmware update rumored seems a ways away:
After speaking with Nolan from Canon USA I can safely say that there is no firmware update for the Canon EOS 7D as of yet for USA model cameras. According to the canon rep, there may be differences in the firmware versions 1.0.7, 1.0.8, and 1.0.9 based on language updates alone. But this cannot be confirmed, as he is only able to speak for U.S.A. model cameras.

Note that there may be two reports mixed up here; someone reported that they received a camera with 1.0.9 firmware (most U.S. models seem to have 1.0.7) and a Philip Bloom reported that he had heard that Canon was working on a firmware update that had something to do with 720p.

JVC Picsio, another opinion
The JVC Picsio has only been out for a few days, and already there's a negative review on Amazon for it: JVC PICSIO GC-FM1A
The image was grainy and shaky (even though stabilization was on) [...] I'm returning it immediately. I recommend the Flip HD, best quality for a minicam, too bad it doesn't have stabilization.

Kind of odd, because the review made me think that the Picsio would be better than the Flip.
The Picsio does have some slightly superior video performance, but it also has that unreliable tele-macro switch that sometimes results in a half-blurry image.

Apple Bluray Rumors

Is it just a year ago that I was madly speculating whether Apple would release Bluray hardware/software support? Why yes, it is! I even went so far as to say:
If they don’t announce something October 14th I’m going to have to write Steve Jobs a carefully worded letter!

And since then? Zzzzzzzzzzz.

A few months ago, the rumors started up again, suggesting Apple might put something into upcoming iMac updates, but now those rumors have been crushed.

Oh well :(

In the mean time, a couple of interesting Apple patents: Appleinsider reports: "Apple has investigated a method to make imperfections in compressed video files less visible to the human eye, a new patent application revealed this week shows."

And MacWorld says: "Apple filed a patent application entitled Synchronization of Media State Across Multiple Devices, which appears to combine local iPod and iPhone synchronization with MobileMe and cloud-computing services."

All good stuff, but it doesn't quite match shipping a product. Come on Apple, give us something interesting before Christmas!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Final Cut Pro User Group and EditShare report

I went to a joint meeting of the Boston Final Cut Pro User Group and the Boston Avid Users Group last night. It was held at Rule Broadcast Systems, who I think paid for the free pizza, chocolate chip cookies and soda.

Full disclosure:

If you're in the greater Boston area and you're interested in video editing, you should definitely make an effort to catch a meeting. They have had some interesting meetings lately.

The featured speaker was colorist Alex Bickel of Outside Editorial, Soho NY. I’ll write more about that in a later post. Anyway, a couple of interesting things.

Before the meeting I was talking to a guy about the Canon 7D and the new Nikon D3s and he was saying how he was using a small pocket Panasonic Lumix camera (similar to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25 though I’m not 100% certain it was that model) and shooting sequences of still images and then turning them into video, and getting quite impressive results. He showed me a nice night-driving scene on his iPhone. Reminded me of a video I’d recently seen made using the burst mode on a Nikion SLR. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find the link to that piece.

Meanwhile, the other speakers of the evening were from EditShare. They gave me a free pen.

EditShare is all about workflow management and shared storage solutions for Adobe, Apple, Avid, etc. etc. That’s about the only mention they get from me for a light-up pen. I tuned out because, being that my collaborators are me, myself and I, the thought of spending money on that kind of thing doesn’t often enter my head. BUT, they demoed “sharing” a project opened in both Avid and Final Cut Pro, and they made a change in one, and the change appeared in the other. I don’t need that capability, but it was still pretty cool. (That mention is for the second pen I took for my daughter.)

I was just getting interested when someone asked the price, and they said their systems start at $8,000. So I tuned out again (but I took a third pen for a friend.) Check them out if you’re looking for a workflow system, or a free pen.

The (FTC) Empire Strikes Back

The Federal Trade Commission has revised guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials. This has provoked some reaction because of it's impact on bloggers. Most importantly:
A post from a blogger who receives cash or "in-kind payment" regarding a product (review) is considered an endorsement.

While I'm generally in favor of full disclosure, I am concerned that the guidelines seem to treat bloggers differently to "traditional media" i.e. it appears that if a blogger is given a free book to review they have to disclose that, while traditional media would not be expected to.

I don't see the difference. In fact, I can think of some journalists who I really think should do some disclosing: I'd love to see a full disclosure from Walt Mossberg of the value of software/hardware/meals/trips/t-shirts he's received from the companies he writes about.

In the mean time, here at NotesOnVideo I will be filling out the Federal Trade Commission's Blogger Remuneration Disclosure Form going forward, so look for excerpts from that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I hadn’t even heard of iFrame before this morning, and then yesterday Apple released an update to iMovie that added support for the iFrame format, and today Sanyo has announced two cameras that support iFrame: the VPC-HD2000A and the VPC-FH1A.

There’s a support document on Apple’s site iMovie ’09: About the iFrame Video format. But it's hardly that informative:

The iFrame Video format is designed by Apple to speed up importing and editing by keeping the content in its native recorded format while editing. Based on industry standard technologies such as H.264 and AAC audio, iFrame produces small file sizes and simplifies the process of working with Video recorded with your camera.

And then adds to select: "960x540 30fps"

Now the 960x540 size isn't exactly new to iMovie; it's the default "Large" video resolution that iMovie uses when you import video (iMovie converts all imported video into a format it prefers.) The step forward appears to be that Apple has got Sanyo to make cameras that output files that iMovie can ingest without having to recompress or convert.

Which brings us to the fact that 960x540 is not 720 (1290x720) or 1080 (1920x1080) It is 16x9 and it is half (in both dimensions) of 1920x1080…

When I first read that the cameras captured at 960 x540, and the prices were $499.99 and $599.99 I thought they were way overpriced for such low resolution cameras. But it turns out that while the cameras reportedly default to iFrame format, they can record in 1080HD as well.

Curiously, reading the current specs for both cameras, the picture modes don’t seem to include iFrame:
Full-HR: 1920 x 1080 (60 fps/ 24Mbps) Full HD: 1920 x 1080 (60fields/sec 16Mbps)
Full-SHQ: 1920 x 1080 (30 fps/ 12Mbps) HD-SHQ: 1280 x 720 (30 fps/9Mbps)
TV-SHQ: 640 x 480 (30 fps/3Mbps)
Web-SHR: 448 x 336 (240 fps/8Mbps) Web-UHR: 192 x 108 (600fps/8Mbps)

I'm not a big user of iMovie; I’ve used it mainly for quick things I wanted to throw together. It is a nice simple program to use, though one of it’s disadvantages is that it forces you to recompress everything you import to a format it likes to deal with. That can take a bit of time, but it won’t edit highly compressed formats natively. Now there’s lots of pros and cons to that method of operation (and to iMovie) but I’m a little unsure whether changing the way the cameras capture the video is the way to go; particularly if it means dumbing down the picture quality.

iMovie is intended for home users, but I can't help thinking a lot of people who hook up the camera straight to the TV will wonder why it can produce a better picture that way, than if they capture in iFrame and edit it in iMovie.


News: October 14

Flip has released the Flip MinoHD Camcorder 2nd Generation,, which doubles the storage to 80GB, has a larger two-inch screen and a mini-HDMI port. 8GB = 2 hours of video. It sells for $299, while the original is $199.

The Nikon D3S is out, and dpreview has a preview.

A video by Vincent Munier really shows the low light capabilities of the camera. It's supposed to support up to ISO 102,400 (wow!) BUT the video is only 720p24. Now 720p isn’t that shabby, and a few years ago it would have been amazing to have a camera that supported that, but it’s also not 1080p. Ultimately, the $5,199.95 means it’s not a camera I will be considering!

Camcorderinfo JVC Picsio review

I appreciate the efforts of anyone that offers up a review of a product I’m interested in. As long as they aren’t shills for the company, different points of view can nearly always add additional light on the subject (and let’s face it, everyone comes to things with their own biases, so there’s no independent, unbiased report on anything.)

So I really like that does reviews of camcorders - they are one of the few sites that does a reasonable and regular job of it, and I even wish they did more.

That said, I am often puzzled by some of their results and comparisons. It’s not the big picture stuff, but little details that get me confused. And some of the explanation of how they test and compare cameras leaves me puzzled. I can’t help thinking that unless you’re a broadcast engineer, you’re probably confused too.

As one tiny example, their latest review of the JVC Picsio has a "Close-Up Color Comparisons" table. They do include the disclaimer:

We can tell you that the JVC GC-FM1 had the most accurate colors, but as far as the most pleasing colors—well, that's a matter of personal preference. […] We should also note that the JVC produced a slightly darker image than the rest of these camcorders, but that is a result of the camcorder's auto exposure system under-exposing the image a bit.

If you look at the part of the table I have reproduced below, it shows “Ideal” then the JVC and then the Flip color samples. Now they say that the JVC produced the most accurate color, but looking at these two examples, doesn’t the color for the FlipHD – particularly for Red, Green and Skin Tone 1 - seem the best? Both cameras appear to do a poor job with Blue and Skin Tone 2, but they are about equal.

They do say “the JVC produced a slightly darker image” but the difference shown here seems to be much worse than “slightly”. I guess I’m just confused about what I should be looking for in this chart given the huge visible differences. Interestingly, when you look at the relationship between all the colors, the MHS-PM1 seems to be closer to the originals, though a little washed out.

As an experiment, in Photoshop I copied part of the chart and boosted the brightness on the strip from the JVC (far right of my chart.) You can see that the colors are now much closer to the “Ideal” and the blue is a bit better than the Flip. I guess that’s what they were trying to show, but unless you have lots of experience with color, you'd come away with a different answer.

And even after the brightness adjustment, I'm still confused! Do I have to adjust all the video to get it right, or were the circumstances of the test such that I don't have to worry about that?

The rest of the article is much easier to understand. If nothing else, check out the Motion Sample videos. The JVC blows away the Flip UltraHD here; it looks more “Accurate.” At the moment they don’t have the Sony MHS-PM1 video hooked up, but you can find it (and others) on their YouTube page. It is noticeable that the JVC image is darker than the Sony, but it seems closer (though fractionally darker) than samples from more expensive video cameras

Really, the sample videos do a much better job of explaining the difference between the cameras than the charts and graphs. You can see that the JVC is darker than the others, but has higher detail and better - seemingly more accurate - color.

One other thing I noticed that they didn’t highlight in the conclusion: the battery life is one of the shortest (75 min) for the small compact camera. Now in reality, most people using this camera will probably be fine with that, but it is a consideration (other things to note are that you have to charge the camera by plugging it into a USB port, and the battery is not removeable.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

News: October 13

JVC Picsio has posted a review of the JVC Picsio.
At first glance, the Picsio is just another Flip clone, trying to carve a piece out of the ultracompact camcorder marker. Beneath the surface, the Picsio provides some impressive quality video that is, unfortunately, accompanied by a body design that lacks durability and reliability.

I like Engadget, but they often get the horse before the cart, or get outraged about something before knowing all the details. Today they posted about JVC’s Picsio pocket camcorder, headlining the post JVC’s Picsio pocket camcorder does fake 1080p for a real $200.
Their complaint? It's advertised "1080p" resolution is 1440 x 1080 at 30 fps

But 1440 x 1080 is the same format of 1080 HD as used in HDV camcorders (it uses non-square pixels to get 1920x1080.)

Canon loyalty Rebate
Canon USA has a $50 off coupon if you buy a Canon EOS camera between October 12 and December 31, provided you own a prior Canon Camera. Buy a regular PowerShot and get $20 off.

Canon 7D Firmware update coming?
On his blog Phillip Bloom has posted that someone at Canon told him a firmware update is coming for the Canon 7D that “it addresses an issues in 720p mode.” Could this be the overheating issue that some users have reported when shooting in 720p for extended periods?
UPDATE Oct 16According to Jared Adams at Cinema5D the firmware update seems a ways away: "After speaking with Nolan from Canon USA I can safely say that there is no firmware update for the Canon EOS 7D as of yet for USA model cameras. According to the canon rep, there may be differences in the firmware versions 1.0.7, 1.0.8, and 1.0.9 based on language updates alone. But this cannot be confirmed, as he is only able to speak for U.S.A. model cameras."

WD TV Live
Western Digital has announced the new WD TV Live, which can play videos stored on USB and network drives, as well as Internet content from Web sites. It’s billed as an update to their WD TV. I'm not really sure what the difference between the two is (I didn't go through the specs, but it looks like the Internet content support might be the key difference.)

A friend has the WD TV, and is very happy with it as a simple way to take files from computer and play back on TV. I bought the Apple TV myself, and - as with some other Apple products - I love a lot of things about it, but also find it limited in a few places. While I can use it to playback video I've authored, I have to convert it to Apple TV's format; I can't just give it any HD file. This is a bit of a frustration, and one of the reasons I don't use it as much as I had thought I would. I'm tempted to get one of these devices instead.
List price is $149, but Best Buy currently lists it at $119.99 on their website (though it’s backordered.)
UPDATE: Amazon is now offering preorders for $119.99 too: Western Digital WD TV Live

Toy Story in 3D
Since I posted a little about Coraline in 3D, I thought I’d add a link to this short article about converting Toy Story and Toy Story 2 to 3D: Buzz and Woody Add a Dimension

Monday, October 12, 2009

Adobe Story

I went to a demo of Adobe Story last week. Story is a beta/pre-release from Adobe Labs. It looks like it's an outgrowth of Buzzword, the online word processing application developed using Adobe Flex, that Adobe purchased a while back.

So what is Story? At the moment, it's described as a scriptwriting/collaboration tool. Signup to use it and you log into a web app that lets you import/create and edit scripts in classic Film Script format. It has a number of nice features; as you type, it prompts for the different script elements using a little pop-up menu. Each part of a script is listed in an outline next to the script. You can quickly navigate by clicking on an outline item. Even better, little colored dots indicate the presence of a character in the scene.

Story organizes things into Projects, which can contain Scripts, Character Bio's and Links. Perhaps more interesting, you can share a Project by entering an email address and indicating the access rights of the person. The other users can be given full editing, or just make comments.

Adobe intends to integrate Story with the Production Suite, and provide linking between Story and other apps. One thing they imagine is organizing shot lists, and there is a tagger option (not implemented, but it is a sharing option) where a user can go through and tag items in a scene (product placement is their suggested use.)

Even though you start-off online, you can download an AIR app (a version of the application that runs locally.) The AIR app will download the files and store them locally, and then allow you to work while "Offline."

All in all, it's an intriguing product, though at the moment it only supports the classic film script format. If it supported a twin column format, I could use this right now for projects. Also, having the files stored on the cloud (even though you can save them locally) is a little troubling given recent events. Still, you should check it out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Coraline DVD

I didn't see Coraline the movie in the theaters, but I just watched the DVD last night, and found it very enjoyable. You can watch it in 3D too using the red/green glasses that are included. It takes a little getting used to; but after a minute or two it was working okay for me; but didn't work for my movie companion. We ended up switching back to the "regular" movie. Either way you watch it, it's a good story that is very well animated. If you're interested in stop-motion, then definitely get this movie.

And after you watch it the first time, watch it again with the director's commentary on. It's a great insight into how they went about translating the book to the screen, and the joys - and trials - of making a stop motion movie. Some of the discussion about voices and casting I found particularly interesting.

You can also find a slideshow on the making of the movie at the LA Times.

Odd Details

Yesterday I was looking at the Canon BG-E7 Battery Grip for Canon 7D Digital SLR Cameraon Amazon, and reading through the page discovered some interesting technical details:

Curiously, today it has been changed to:

    Yellow Ink Tank for the S800 photo printer and other select Canon printers