Saturday, August 07, 2010

Lock and Load X

This weekend there's a special deal on Core Melts Lock & Load X. Lock & Load is a stabilization filter which is supposed to be faster than Final Cuts SmoothCam.

But what's really interesting about Lock & Load X is that it claims to remove rolling shutter from clips. Unfortunately I haven't tried it, and haven't found any reviews.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, August 05, 2010

VideoQ&A: I want better audio, should I get a BeachTek?

I'm trying as hard as I can to get my future sports show looking as professional as possible right off the bat. […] I heard of something called a BeachTek audio adapter that can be attached to a videocamera. I wanted to know how crisp the audio is when this technology is used.

A lot of consumer cameras have only a mini-plug input for connecting external mics (if they have anything at all.) They also often have no manual gain control. The BeachTek adapter plugs into the mini-plug mic input of a videocamera and gives you XLR jacks for attaching professional mics. They can also allow you to adjust the volume of the separate audio channels, and the one for DSLR's even disables the Auto Gain Circuitry many of these cameras have. There's three or four different models, with different features.

I have an earlier model that I used to use with a video camera. It has a screw on the top that can be attached to the tripod mount at the bottom of the camera, and has it's own threaded insert on the bottom for attaching to a tripod. You can adjust the level of the two audio channels independently, and also monitor audio coming into it (though you should really monitor the audio from the camera, not the the device sending audio to the camera.)

Do you have any mics, or do you have to buy those too? My experience with these kind of adapters is that the biggest variables are the camcorder audio circuitry and the microphones, rather than the adapter itself.

While these can be very useful in some circumstances,  if you're editing the video after the fact - which I hope you are - I would look at using a dual-system recording method (i.e. record audio on a second device) and instead of the Beachtek buy something like the Tascam DR100 or the Zoom H4n. You can then use the recorder either with their internal mics, or attach external mics. This will require more work on your end (sycning the sound with the video) but a lot of the pros prefer going that route.

Recording audio on a separate device:
  • Doubles the chance of recording audio (you still have the camera mic audio)
  • Makes it easier to place mics (and cables) in the scene away from the camera
  • Allows you to monitor the audio being recorded (some DSLRs don't let you monitor audio as it's being recorded)
  • Doesn't add bulk to the camera
  • Moves the audio control away from the camera (one day - if you can - you'll get someone else to record and monitor the audio for you, and you won't want them ontop of the camera when they are doing it!)

B & H: DXA-SLR Active Audio Adapter $399.00
B & H: Beachtek DXA-2T Universal Compact Camcorder Audio Adapter $189.00
B & H: Tascam DR-100 Professional Portable Digital Audio Recorder $300
B & H: Zoom H4n Handy Mobile 4-Track Recorder $299

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

News From Here & There

Hand-on with the Panasonic consumer 3D camera
Camcorderinfo got their hands on Panasonic's upcoming consumer 3D video camera, and put it through it's paces. While the 3D lens is detachable, it will only work with this camcorder, and you have to go through some calibration when you attach it:

Calibrating the conversion lens is a tricky 3-step process, but the camcorder's menu gives a good amount of detail each step of the way. Even if you have a lot of experience with video, however, calibrating the 3D conversion lens is going to be a unique experience. You'll definitely need to do it a few times before you can really get the hang of it and figure out the best calibration for capturing 3D content.

Also, in 3D mode, you have to shoot in full automatic mode - you have no control over zoom or focus - and you need a lot of light (the minimum illumination is listed at 28 lux, and that might be optimistic.) Finally, anything further away than 4m won't have any 3D effect.

The 3D conversion lens

Still, they found that it was capable of capturing excellent 3D images; they are just not too sure if people will want to do it.

My suspicion is that they will sell quite a lot of these because a) the cost is comparatively low and b) it can still be used as a regular camcorder. I'n guessing that a lot of people will buy one, shoot a little bit in 3D and then detach the lens and never use it again...and ten or fifteen years from now enthusiasts will be searching garage sales and ebay listings to get their hands on them Hands-on Review of the World's First 3D Consumer Camcorder: The Panasonic HDC-SDT750

Panasonic AG-AF101 4/3” HD camcorder to rollout at IBC
The rollout of large sensor video cameras in the consumer/pro-sumers space continues. Sony has already announced the NEX-VG10, and Panasonic has said they have a camera coming too. The HD Warrior site reports that Panasonic will use IBC 2010 in September to rollout the new AG-AF101 4/3" camcorder, though it's unclear that this means it will be actually shipping in September.
HDWarrior: Panasonic to launch the AF101 at IBC 2010

Summer Warning: iPhones aren't water-proof
A non-video related story, but in the past two weeks two people I know have had problems when they took their iPhone swimming (accidentally.) i.e. iPhones aren't waterproof. And neither the warranty or AppleCare will cover you!
So be careful out there by the pool with your smart phone!

Pixar exhibition @ the Oakland Museum of California
Running from July 31 - January 9, 2011, PIXAR: 25 Years of Animation...provides an unprecedented look at the renowned Emeryville-based studio (located just a few miles from OMCA) and showcases the creative work behind its wildly successful computer-animated films.
Oakland Museum

Write your screenplay in 10 minutes a day
Sometimes getting things done means setting deadlines and making plans. Sometimes it means just slogging through it, and sometimes it means setting aside a small amount of time each day....and keeping at it.
Pilar Alessandra recommends the latter approach. Write Your Screenplay in 10 Minutes a Day

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Why Canon doesn't update their firmware...

WHO: A Canon rep
WHERE: Rodney Charters talk at the Boston SuperMeet
WHAT: In answer to a question about why firmware wasn't updated more frequently

There’s only so many guys in Japan that actually write our firmware. So it’s not like there’s a team of 200 people and we just send them a request and they say “Oh, no problem, we’ll have that to you tomorrow.”

When we send a request they say “Okay, well do you want the 1D Mark IV or do you want the firmware update for this?” and we said “mmm wow. Really? That’s what it’s gonna be like that?”

So there are times like that where they have to prioritize what they are doing, and sometimes the product cycle interferes with firmware updates.

The other part is, the more feedback you give us, the more they say “well we need to do this,” so you just keep screaming about it.

See also:
NotesOnVideo: Rodney Charters at the SuperMeet

[UPDATE: It seems that Canon isn't the only company with this problem: AppleInsider: Apple's iTunes Remote app was developed by one person - report]

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sony GV-D200 review

Sony GV-D200

I've been using a Sony GV-D200 deck to transfer old Video8 and Hi8 tapes. Some of these tapes are over twenty years old, and no longer having a Hi8 camcorder that worked I was concerned that if I didn't do something about transferring them to a more modern format soon, I might never be able to.

While Sony no longer make camcorders that use these tapes - that I know of - Sony does still sell the GV-D200 deck (or Video Walkman, as it's sometimes labelled.) They also offer the GV-D800, which is almost identical but adds a small LCD screen for about $120 more. I didn't think I'd need a screen since I was using this to capture to the computer, but you will need an external monitor when you first set it up.

Physically, the device is small. At 5 7/8" wide, 5 3/8" deep and 2" high, it's the smallest video deck I've encountered. I used to have a Video8 deck that I thought was small; and it was twice as deep and twice as high. The tape is loaded through a top opening slot, and all of the controls are arranged on the top as well. A separate power supply is included, though it can be powered by an NP InfoLithium battery (not included.) I didn't try using a battery simply because I'm not planning to take the device out in the field.

Getting started
Setup seemed simple at first; there's a Firewire (IEEE-1394) 4-pin (mini) plug in the back of the deck, which I connected to the Firewire 800 port of the MacBook Pro. But reading the manual - always a good idea - it said that DV - OUT is not enabled by default, and you press the menu button to display the device menu and turn on the feature.

DV out

Rather naively, I went looking for some kind of LCD display on the device, and discovered there wasn't one. Of course, it turned out I needed a video display connected to the standard video out to see the menu and turn the DV - OUT function on. I hooked up a small LCD display, got the menu, turned that on, and also checked that the TBC was turned on - it was.

Sony GV-D200 menu

With that done, I could hook-up the device to the computer. That's when I discovered that Final Cut Pro didn't recognize the device at all. I then tried Final Cut Express and had no luck with that. On a whim I tried iMovie, and it immediately recognized the device; even displaying the device name as the Source.

Analog Video and Audio Out

When capturing video, iMovie displays the video in the capture preview window, but there's no audio, so I used the external monitor just to listen to the audio. The capture went well, except that now and again the iMovie capture window would stop displaying the video preview. The video itself was still being captured, but you couldn't be sure what was going on. This only happened when starting the capture; it didn't disappear halfway through a sequence. Quitting and starting the application again always cleared the problem. Since it happened now and again, and it's possibly the software's fault, I can't really deduct points for that.

iMovie does display an approximate counter, which for a continuous piece of recording gives you an indication of the time passed.

The video is saved as .dv files by iMovie. iMovie also builds thumbnails, which can take several minutes after the import in completed. The files themselves go into Final Cut Pro without trouble - though the audio has to be rendered to play in the Final Cut timeline.

The quality of the video really depends on the quality of the source material. I only have Video8 and Hi8 (the deck will also play Digital8) As expected there's a noticeable difference between Video8 and Hi8 (see sample.)

I've transfered video from a Video8 camcorder before; using an analog to digital capture card, and I've also used an analog-to-DV converter box. But the GV-D200 is one of the easiest devices I've used for capturing analog video - partly because it's a single device that spits out a DV signal. Sure, there were some minor hiccups along the way, but they were quickly overcome, and the capture process has been pretty trouble free. Admittedly, true DV devices are even easier - when analog video is paused half the frame tends to be all noise, whereas DV doesn't do that, and you can't log and capture like you can with DV, but for a straight transfer this deck works well.

And most importantly, I now have recovered video that hasn't been watched for years.

iMovie Capture window

Some sample video. Since I no longer have a Video8 or Hi8 camcorder,
 I couldn't really match the content, but this gives an idea of the differences.

Amazon:Sony Digital 8mm Video Walkman
B & HSony GVD-200 Digital-8 Walkman $478 [they label it the GVD-200, but it's actually the GV-D200]
B & H: Sony GVD-800 Digital-8 Walkman $599

[UPDATE: added clarification about loss of image during capture. Tidied up discussion of DV input]