Saturday, April 03, 2010

IPad thoughts

It's the end of the first day with the iPad - or the first half a day - and it's been a very interesting experience. I'm still getting used to it, and it's really going to be interesting to see how things work out over the next few months. Will It become indispensable, or a nice to have toy? I don't know. Certainly there's lots of little things that are exciting: using it to play back video, view books, and even to edit content in limited ways is very appealing.

I'm writing this on the iPad, using Blogger and Safari. In horizontal mode the keyboard is surprisingly easy to use. I don't think I want to use it for typing all day, but for writing short entries it's very good. I wouldn't dream of doing something of this length on the iPhone.

There are already several interesting third party apps, and I'm curious to see what comes in the next few months.

With all the hype over the last few days, it's a little hard to really accurately gauge my reaction to this tool. It's amazingly clever, but it's not everything you could ever want. I really need to spend a long period of time to fully see how I'll use it.

But I can't wait to see!

Finslly, this will be my last "non-video" iPad blog. I already have another iPad-specific blog called iBookWriter, so I'll be posting more thoughts there as time goes on. If I come up with video related stuff about the iPad, I will include it here, but I'm going to try and stop the drooling that's been going on the last week!!

Friday, April 02, 2010

The 3D backlash builds... assembles a collection of negative reviews for the Clash of the Titans, primarily criticizing the 3D work:
Explain to kids that the movie was not filmed in 3D and is only being shown in 3D in order to charge you an extra $5 a ticket. I saw it in 2D, and let me tell you, it looked terrific.
-Roger Ebert

While over at Salon, Mary Williams has written an article "I hate 3D":
The 3-D effects in "Avatar" are proof of the indisputably superior potential of the form -- James Cameron managed to pack a lot of breathtaking images in a fairly unobtrusive way. So unobtrusive, in fact, I could have done just fine without any of it

Minor iPad news

It's one day until launch and the excitement is building...I've already spent about $60 on apps in the iTunes store, and am trying to cut back!

I ordered Apple's carrying case the same day as the iPad, and just got an email saying it was shipping; but it's not due for delivery until the 7th.

The only specifically video related apps I've found (and I haven't bought either yet) is:

SMPTE Score HD ($1.99) can calculate all relationship combinations of: SMPTE timecode, Tempo (beats per minute) and Score length (written measures).

prompterPad ($4.99) seems to let you enter text, set the size and the scroll speed and it will scroll through automatically. There doesn't seem to be any control other than speed; it would be great if there was a start stop app that worked on the iPhone!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

iPad apps are available now

Apple has released iPad apps in the iTunes store. There's already hundreds of apps. I spent an hour or so paging through them; it's a little disorienting because the order of the apps seems to change each time you go to a new page. I saw apps multiple times, and new apps appeared as I went backwards through the pages! But you should be able to find a few interesting ones.

I bought the three Apple apps; Pages, Numbers and Keynote, as well as Flight Control HD (because I love the game.) I looked at some To Do programs, but couldn't decided which one to go for. I'm going to hope some reviews come out over the next week or two. I also downloaded some free apps; AIM, Twitterific and Epicurious. I'm sure I'll get a few more.

I had thought there was talk that the iBookstore would be an app that you have to download, but there's no sign of it at the moment.

Finally, I notice that the iTunes Apps section on my computer now has three app sections;
  1. iPhone, iPod touch and iPad Apps
  2. iPhone and iPod touch Apps
  3. iPad Apps

UPDATE [4/2 7:49] The iBooks app is now available at iTunes.

Boston Motion Graphics Festival, April 1 - 5th

I only just found out about this, and don't think I'll be able to get to any of the events, unfortunately, but if you're in Boston, check it out: Boston Motion Graphics Festival

RODE University - On-Air Broadcast microphones

nThose who do podcasts or record narration tracks might want to check out the latest installment from the RODE University, which shows three On-Air mics; the large diaphragm condenser $419 Broadcaster, the dynamic cardiod $229 Procaster and the USB cardiod $229 Podcaster (essentially a USB version of the Procaster).
RODE Podcaster

If you're thinking of getting either of these mics, jump to about half way through the video where there's samples of the Broadcaster and Procaster recorded in a radio station's studio. Unfortunately, the Podcaster - which they do say performs the same way as the Procaster - is then demoed in a completely different environment, making it difficult to compare with the other two.

Sound wise; I liked the sound of the Broadcaster better than the Procaster; it sounded a bit brighter and clearer to my ears. Whether it's worth the extra $200 is debatable.

A note about USB mics: I have a Samson USB mic (which coast about half the cost of the Podcaster, so I'm not saying it's as good) and frankly while it doesn't require the extra USB I/O box that regular mics require, I don't find it any easier to manage and work with when connected to the computer. I seem to have more driver issues with the USB mic. But using one means there's one less piece of gear to drag about, which is useful if you're going on-location, but not so much if you only record at home.

The answer is 42

One melancholy thought occurs as my fingers glide and flow over the surface of this astonishing object: Douglas Adams is not alive to see the closest thing to his Hitchhiker's Guide that humankind has yet devised.

-Stephen Fry writing about the iPad at

Drop testing your lens

The intrepid investigators (I use that term loosely because anything else I came up with was too derogatory) came up with the idea or dropping a Canon 50mm f1.8 on a concrete floor to see how it would stand up. They claimed it was a "valid test for cinema applications."  Say what?!

Seriously, why not drop the Canon 5D instead? Now that would have been valid!

Given the height they dropped it - and on to a concrete floor - I wonder whether even an L lens would have survived?

Of course, the real reason for dropping it; it only costs $100.

And they actually got some interesting Lensbaby-like results; though maybe it would be better - and more predictable - to just buy the $100 Lensbaby. Agreed, part of the effect they seemed to be getting was by completely separating the lens front from the lens back, causing it to occlude much of the image. jump to the very end to see some sample video. That's the most interesting part!

Cinema5D: Canon EF II 50mm f1.8 Drop Test

Video for the iPad

It's going to be iPad 24/7...well, 24/2, as we countdown to the arrival of the new toy.

One of the things I want to do with it is to use it to playback my own video, and I'm trying to figure out what setting to use to get the best - and most efficient - video results.

There's a lot of information out there about best results/settings for the iPhone and AppleTV, but the iPad has a different size screen again, and so far I haven't been able to find any information about recommended settings for that. One of the first things I'm planning to do when I get it is experiment with some different sizes and settings.

I did find a tool for creating video for the iPad; much to my surprise - I thought it would be at least another week! Though I think I'll stick with Compressor, thanks very much: iFunia iPad Video Converter for Mac

Other Links

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Philip Bloom does April 1st

He almost got me, too...Canon DSLR video goes RAW!!

I particularly like the "beer goggles" feature.

News for March 31st

Tomorrow is April 1st. I guess it would be appropriate to post some wonderful iPad related prank tomorrow; but it only just occurred to me, so I guess it's too late for that.


Gizmodo says that YouTube is rolling out it's new redesign to everyone. The redesign is supposed to make it more streamlined and encourage people to explore other videos. I've been subjected to it for a few weeks now, and I don't like what they did to Comments. The comments all seem to merge into a lifeless block, and if you have moderation on it makes approving comments a pain. Two thumbs down.

After a bit of a drought, Camcorderinfo has a couple of new reviews up. They love, love, love the  Panasonic HDC-TM700. Under Product Tour and Color & Noise Performance they can't come up with anything for "The Bad" column! Wow!

Of course, it's not all dancing and cupcakes; though the camera has a 1080/60p mode, it turns out you can't do anything with it other than watch it from the camera:
the camcorder uses a proprietary MPEG-4 codec that isn't really compatible with anything other than Panasonic's provided software. Yes, the video shot with the 1080/60p setting looks stunning when you play it back on an HDTV, but the only way you can really do this is by playing back the footage directly from the camcorder. We couldn't find any third party software that would import or recognize the 1080/60p clips shot with the HDC-TM700, although we expect this to change if 1080/60p recording becomes more prevalent in the future.
And even though Panasonic includes a (Windows only) utility that can open (and should be able to export) the video they couldn't get it to successfully export the 60p footage in another format.

Their second review is of the Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5, which doesn't score very well at all, getting dinged for poor color and artifacting. It just doesn't live up to the competition:
The Flip [produces] excellent video quality, beating the Bloggie in nearly every performance category. In those areas where the Bloggie proved superior (i.e. sharpness and low light color accuracy), the difference is not significant. The Flip, on the other hand, boasted far superior numbers in low light sensitivity and had a much more accurate automatic white balance.

NAB is getting closer, and the serious announcements are starting to arrive.
Fujinon has turned out a 3D Lens with Synchronous Control. Take a look at that monster. It looks like one camera unit is mounted vertically below the unit (that's a mirrored panel you're looking at where the two lenses seem to overlap) while the other is mounted horizontally behind. I'm sure that whole set-up is beyond my budget, and beyond the scope of this blog, but it's an impressive looking piece of gear. It would definitely pass the Kiefer Test!

Meanwhile, this morning my teen-aged daughter - who saw both Avatar and Alice in 3D - told me - unprompted - that she "hates 3D." Maybe the wave has crested. think I'm just setting you up for an April 1st prank, don't you?

VideoQ&A: Problems importing to iMovie

I have a Canon VIXIA HF M31 and I cannot transfer to iMovie or my MacBook What do I do? I have been to the Apple store and they had no idea.
There's a number of things that might be going wrong here, but I'll go through the most obvious ones. Feel free to write back if you have more information. Note that I'm assuming you're using the internal memory, though if you're using a card it doesn't make a lot of difference to the principles below.

  1. When you connect the camera to the MacBook (via USB) is it mounting as a drive?
    That's the first thing that needs to happen. If you can't do that, then you can't move on to the next problem!
    The internal memory (and/or the card) should appear as a "drive" in the Finder. If it doesn't, then something is probably wrong with the camera, or the cable.
    I'm not familiar with this particular camera, but some cameras have to be put into a particular mode before they will talk to the computer. Check your manual!
  2. What kind of MacBook is it?
    It must be an Intel model, since the video on the HF M31 is in H.264 format, and QuickTime only supports H.264 on the Mac. At least that's true for playback, and I think that's true for importing.
  3. What version of iMovie are you using?
    I couldn't find an import option that worked for iMovie HD (admittedly, I don't use iMovie very frequently, so I was just casting a quick glance through it.) On iMovie 09 there's an "Import from Camera" option under the File menu. When I open that, it opens an import dialog that shows me the clips on the camera, and lets me import all of them (under Automatic) or select the ones I want to import using Manual.
Note that iMovie 09 has an option called "Archive All" (at the bottom of the Import dialog) which will create a .dmg file that contains the unconverted video from the camera. Creating a .dmg saves a copy of the video files from the camera in a file on your computer. Double-clicking that file will open a virtual drive on the desktop containing the files that iMovie will be able to access if you want to import the video at a later date. This is a great way to archive what you have shot.

Other things that can go wrong:
This is a long shot, but have you modified the contents of the camera using the Finder (i.e. deleting files through the Finder rather than using the camera?) I have found with Final Cut Express and Pro, that manually deleting files on a camera through the Finder can confuse the directory structure, and then those programs will stop recognizing the contents of the camera.

I ended up having to copy the files from the camera onto my computer and use another utility to recompress the video. Reformatting the camera using the camera's format function will fix the problem for future imports (but not solve it for existing files.)

Book review of From Still to Motion @ canon5Dtips

The Canon5DTips website has posted a brief review of the new book "From Still to Motion," and they like it:
First, the book assumes only one thing: you are a photographer shooting stills and you want to learn how to shoot video. That is it. It goes over all the lingo, gear and processes used in cinematography and give you a working knowledge of what is required and involved in a shoot. The content goes wider and deeper than any DVD training material I have seen so far.


Archiving great masses of data

A couple of days ago I mentioned in passing a deal that Amazon had on a 2TB external drive. Chris, who blogs at _mxr blog, added a pointer to a post he'd written on his blog about how he handles archiving video data: My 7D/5D backup workflow.

Chris uses a SATA docking station - which lets you plug in bare internal drives - to archive material. He also bought an eSATA card for his MacPro as it's about 7 times faster than the USB connection (his unit has both eSATA and USB connections.) He then keeps the units in a draw in his desk.

It's actually a method of archiving that I've considered, and I may still get one to manage archiving work files. One thing that held me back was that I am concerned about using external units for day to day work; I figured that being more exposed to dust (and hands), they may be more likely to fail.

I also like being able to move drives around from location to location easily.

Frankly, I'm also concerned about the long term viability of hard drives, whether internal or external. I really wonder how long a drive can be expected to remain operational: I wouldn't be surprised if ten years later the drives didn't spin up. I've even heard some people say that drives need to be spun up every few months or they die prematurely.

And I'm even more concerned about optical media; or I'd rush out and buy a Blu-ray drive.

So as you can see, I don't really know what I'm doing. At the moment, I'm keeping two copies (on two separate drives) of all the originals (photos, AVCHD files.)


HDSLR travel gear
While you're checking out Chris's blog, check out the entry: My HDSLR travel gear. He has a great picture of a nice set of gear...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

iPad on it's way...

Video Terms - Grading

1. Altering, correcting or enhancing the color of a film or video image.

2. I'm grading a show right now for...
3. it was shot using the "flattened" picture preset and there's been no color grading.

4. In film, the process of adjusting color photo-chemically is called color timing.
5. Adjusting the color digitally is called grading.

6. Alex Bickel - Colorist
7. Color Grading Canon 7D


QuickTime 7.6.6

Apple has released QuickTime 7.6.6, which has changes to increase reliability for iMovie on the Mac, and increase reliability for H.264 playback on multicore systems for Windows (there's also an update for iMovie itself:

Apple Support: QuickTime: About QuickTime 7.6.6

DSLR Color stuff

Shane Hurlbut starts a blog entry about Color Correction writing about creating picture styles for Canon EOS DSLRs. His comments about the 5D, 7D and 1D are particularly interesting:
The 5D is the king of the hill and all the others are trying to climb up to the top but they don’t even have a rope. The 7D has much more contrast, more saturation and less detail. The 1D is a very unique sensor and is incredibly sensitive. I cannot put my fingers on it but it lacks even more detail than the 7D and has a strange contrast along with gray skin tones. It has to be the small mega pixel count. So, I factor all these things into my RAW look for each camera.
But then he goes off into camera color balancing, noting that the cameras tend to come from the factory with a slightly different color "bias." He thinks it's very important to correct this, partly because these cameras are so compressed.

It's also recommended to do this if you are using multiple cameras. He balances the first camera, then takes the second and hooks them both up to calibrated monitors through HDMI, and switches back and forth until he's sure they are balanced by eye.

I probably would make a mess of it trying to balance a camera by eye, and I don't have a scope, so I think I'll avoid doing this adjustment for the moment.

Picture Styles
For those experimenting with Picture Styles, but a bit nervous or unsure about creating their own, Dermot Shane reports he's been using a 7D as his stealth camera while shooting a documentary, and likes the gamma curves from Steve Shaw at Light Illusion (cost ~$40 USD). Dermot feels they really extend the range of the footage when grading.

Rode University – ENG sound lessons

I had previously written about the “Rode University,” an online set of instructional videos presented by the mic company Rode. The first two lessons were pretty good introductions to using mics on location, so when I got an email that they had a new lesson up on ENG mics, I thought I'd check it out.

Firstly, let me say that I dislike the log-in requirements even more this time than I did the first. I couldn't remember the password, and had to wait to log in, and other than getting my email address, I'm not sure what the point of me registering is. It doesn't seem to keep track of where I've been or anything like that. The interface for navigating the university, while pretty, just seems to make it harder to find and go to the things you want.

Once in, I did find two new parts I hadn't seen before. The first one covers two on-camera mics; the VideoMic and Stereo VideoMic. At $149 and $249, these mics are mini-shotguns that are intended to produce improved results compared to the internal mics found on most consumer and pro-sumer cameras. The second episode focuses on larger (and more expensive) shotgun mics.

While these two episodes add a bit more information to that given in the first two segments, and had a few pointers on the role of the sound man when working with a cameraman, I don't think these were as compelling or as informative as the first two episodes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sony NX5 Video review

Philip Johnston at HD Warrior has put together a video review of the Sony HXR-NX5. He does a very complete tour of the camera, goes through some of the functions and includes some sample footage. And there's some impressive product shots too; Sony would be proud (and should maybe pay him!)

I'm not as excited about the SD computability as he is; had it been Memory Stick only it wouldn't stop me from buying one; what's ~$40 more on a $4,000 camera? And I don't know if I like the low angle webcam video he used for himself, but that's a quibble.

He talks about using the camera with a PMW350, which is 4 times the NX5, and that "it's not a kick in the pants away" (translation please? - We think it means 'close') I'd have been interested in a little more comments about that, but it's still useful.

And one question; How'd he do the frozen windshield wiper? That's a cool shot!!

HD Warrior: SONY NX-5 User Video Review

Sony extends rebate on HXR-FMU128 to April 30th

The 128GB Flash Memory unit for the Sony HXR-NX5U video camera rebate (of $500) has been extended from 3/31 to 4/30. The unit is on backorder in several locations, which may be the reason for the extension.

The HXR-FMU128 normally retails for $749.95, but the $500 rebate brings it down to a much more palatable $249.95. Since 32GB SDHC cards are selling for about $100 right now, with the rebate the HXR-FMU128 comes in at almost have the price of four 32GB cards.

[UPDATE]  It seems that the date for filing the rebate was extended, but the period for buying it did not change. The important details that may have caused confusion when looking at the rebate forms:
Eligible models must be ordered from a Sony Authorized Reseller, Third Party Reseller of an Authorized Distributor or directly from Sony by March 31, 2010 and shipped to end user customer by April 30, 2010 to be eligible for rebate.

Hot Rod 7D-PL lens modification

Hot Rod Cameras is a company that does camera modifications; notably modifying cameras to accept PL mount lenses. Abel Cine Tech, a professional film and video sales, service and rental store is a re-seller of the Canon 7D-PL Mod and they now have a video blog post with Illya Friedman, president of Hot Rod Cameras and Andy Shipsides of Abel showing the mount and talking about what's involved with the modification.

They are accepting pre-orders and first deliveries are expected in the second week of April. You can either get the modification performed on your camera, or buy a converted camera.

There's also a Canon 7D-PL FAQ.

Note that:
...the 7D-PL Mod performed by Hot Rod Cameras will void Canon's factory warranty. However, there is a five day new camera initial failure policy. Customers have 5 days after their invoice date to notify us of an initial failure.

iPad Second Thoughts...

Apple has just released some guided tour videos that demonstrate the functionality of the iPad, and after seeing the Video and Photos demos I'm wondering if I should have gotten the 64GB version. I hadn't planned to put a lot of photos on the thing, but seeing the demo, I'm having second thoughts!


Upcoming Workshops @ Rule

Rule Broadcast systems has an ongoing series of free workshops that are held most Wednesdays.

Though they haven't been added to their events page yet, the latest email lists a couple of interesting upcoming workshops:
  • 4.7 Lens 411
  • 4.21 Production Audio for HD-SLR Cameras

This Wednesday, March 31st they have Acquire, Edit and Convert, reviewing solutions for production challenges in the field with Ki Pro, Io Express and mini-converters.

Rule: Events @ Rule

iPad Camera Connection Kit

Apple is now accepting orders for the iPad Camera Connection Kit which has two connectors; one for USB and one for SD card connections. Shipping date is "late April."
After you make the connection, your iPad automatically opens the Photos app, which lets you choose which pictures to import, then organizes the selected photos into albums. When you sync iPad to your PC or Mac, the photos on your iPad are added to your computer's photo library.
I'm wondering what the Photos app will make of videos?

The end of film?

The recent Great Camera Shootout compares DSLR's to film, and while the DSLR's did a really good job compared to film, they still lagged a bit on lattitude; getting about 10 stops compared to film's 13.

But DSLRs aren't the only digital option out there; and if you have the money there's RED's Mysterium-X and the just announced ARRI ALEXA.

Visual effects supervisor and producer Marc Weigert has a write-up at HD User Magazine where he goes through tests performed to compare the RED, ARRI and film in low-light situations. He comes to the conclusion that: “FILM (Celluloid, that is), IS DEAD!

The dynamic range of these two cameras blew me away. ARRI has measured 13.5 stops.
The RED had slightly less dynamic range than the Alexa. I would put the RED rather in the range of 11-12 stops usable range, which is still excellent. I’ve heard of other test shoots for the RED coming in at 13 stops, and that may be true, too. But in direct comparison, we could see detail in the blacks of the ARRI footage that was gone in the RED, and the same with highlights. But, as I mentioned before, I believe none of this practically matters much, unless your DP grossly over or under exposes, which would be pretty much impossible if you have a calibrated monitor on set.

HD User Magazine: Out Of The Dark Ages

The ever decreasing cost of storage

I just bought a couple of 1.5TB external USB drives for $129.00 each. I thought that was pretty good, but Amazon, right now (for the next hour) has a lightning deal of $149.99 for 2TB Western Digital drives. That's pretty amazing. If I hadn't just bought those other drives I'd place an order (on the other hand, wait a few months and that will be the price they are regularly!)

Amazon Lightning Deals Page

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Broadcast Pix iPhone and iPad apps

At the studio today the director had the Boardcast Pix iPhone app and was using it to control the Broadcast Pix switcher while he was out of the Control Room. If truth be told, he was mainly using it to show people that it worked, but he also used it to play back some music cues while running through the rehearsal.

The iPhone app is pretty simple; the screen has a series of buttons that you map to the switcher buttons.

iPhone app

Even more intriguing, Broadcast Pix has announced an iPad app that offers even more controls. The director was saying that if he had that he'd be able to operate the jib and the switcher at the same time - though I think he's being optimistic!

iPad app

T2i performance and 7D comparison

Hunter Kerhart has an internship at HdiRAWworks and was assistant cameraman on The Chrysalis short film, and he just posted the results of some tests he ran on the T2i's Lowlight Capabilities.

His conclusion: The T2i is clean up to ISO 800, and "useable" up to 3200.

He also compared it to the 7D and says the "T2i is definitely a step down in video quality," and adds "the T2i’s overheating issues alone makes it a no-go for me." Which is news to me. I hadn't heard of people complaining about the T2i overheating.

Finally, Jared Abrams at Cinema5D helped Hunter out with the test, and his writeup added an interesting detail:
It is also worth noting that we bumped up all the footage to Apple Pro Res and it showed very similar results as directly from the camera. The noise in Pro Res was much worse at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200.

Hunter Kerhart: T2i Lowlight Capabilities

Managing files in Final Cut Pro

Final Cut has a System Setting for the location of the Scratch Disk (above, accessed from File>System Setting). When you set this, Final Cut creates a series of folders (as needed) in which it stores it's work files, as well as any captured files...i.e. anything imported through Log & Transfer or Log & Capture.

When I first started using Final Cut, I set the Scratch Disk to a folder in my Documents folder, and left it at that. Note: You want to create a new folder and set that as the Scratch location; don't do as I did once and just choose Documents; you'll end up with all the folders it creates scattered through all your other documents and folders in that location.

Having one Scratch location means you know where everything is; it also means that some of your media files aren't in the same location as your project and other media, making archiving and backup more difficult. You can solve that by using a dummy project to import media, and then dragging the captured files out of the Capture Scratch folder into the assets folder for the project you're working on.

That was how I used to do it. Now I have adopted a different strategy: for every project I create a folder that stores assets and the Final Cut Pro document. And I create a folder inside that folder called Final Cut, which I set as the Scratch Disk location.

The advantage of this is that it keeps everything in one place. The disadvantage is that you have to remember to switch Scratch Disk location every time you switch projects.

This may give you second thoughts if you work on several projects at once. In that situation it is probably too easy to mess up by switching projects as you work and forgetting to change the Scratch Disk location. If you tend to work on one project after another, then setting the Scratch Disk as you go works well enough.

I can't help thinking it would be useful if Final Cut let you define the scratch location for a project, and switched for you as you changed projects.