NAB report 2012

April 15, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off on NAB report 2012 

I’m in Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters convention, where a few TV types worry about the state of the industry and the other 85,000 attendees drool over this year’s crop of new video and broadcast toys.
Two years ago the show was dominated by 3D products, with Sony’s giant booth darkened down so the crowd could don dorky glasses to watch 3D footage on a huge screen like the drones from Apple’s famous 1984 Mac ad. But the real action was in the booths where hordes of vendors were hawking accessories for DSLR cameras.
This year the buzz is all about 4k cameras, with new models from Canon and Sony sure to draw the multitudes. But like 3D, those cameras may be before their time. Normal folks have no way to display 4K let alone the horsepower to edit it.
We’ll see Monday morning when the displays open what the back story is for this year’s gear.
I’ll be posting stuff as I find it that is of interest to visual journalists.

Canon’s baby cam: the XF100

October 5, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on Canon’s baby cam: the XF100 

Canon’s new XF100 and XF105 look like they’ll be great photojournalist’s cameras. Too bad about the 10x lens, though.

Using separate audio recorder with DSLR video

August 5, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on Using separate audio recorder with DSLR video 

How-to: Shooting ENG style with Dual System Audio on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II from Createasphere on Vimeo.

Daniel Plym shows how he uses a separate audio recorder with Plural Eyes software to synch up separate audio while shooting video with a DSLR.

New Sony big-chip camera and new Vixia HF M32 announced

July 14, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on New Sony big-chip camera and new Vixia HF M32 announced 

Two interesting new cameras:

1) Canon Vixia HF M32 is the next step in the tiny, AVCHD line of camcorders which keep improving with each new model. It will give 24 hours of recording to the built-in memory plus SDHC/SDXC memory cards. What makes this one interesting is that it has “Powered IS” image stabilizer, which is a hand-held miracle, and it has built-in downconversion to standard def while retaining the HD. Works with Eye-Fi cards. I am so getting one of these. $999 suggested retail. Read press release on PDN.

2) Sony says their new $2000 NEX VG-10 interchangeable-lens big-chip camera (shallow depth of field) camera will be available in September. Also does stills at 7fps. Looks awesome. New E-mount lenses dampen my enthusiasm for this one, but hopefully adapters will work with it.

UPDATE: I see E-Mount adapters on ebay for Nikkor, Canon, and Leica lenses! This Sony NEX VG10 is suddenly more interesting!

What video camera to buy?

June 10, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on What video camera to buy? 

What video camera do you buy in 2010?

This is a really confusing time to pick a camera. There are so many out there, none of them perfect.

Choosing a camera is all about workflow. What programs are your guys going to be editing on and how new are the computers? You can’t pick equipment without looking at the whole picture. Some cameras work better with a Mac while others work better with PC’s.

What are your expectations for video? Finished pieces from the person shooting it or hand off to a video editor? Web-only or for TV partner? More deadline turn-around from sports and spot news or more enterprise/feature work?

Are the folks with the better cameras going to be shooting only video or do you expect them to shoot stills on the same assignments?

For still photographers who want to shoot some video, the video-capable DSLRs are the way to go. Forget the video cameras… it’s too much to carry. But you’ll need accessories I’ll get to in a minute.

But some of you need real video to support a TV partner. If you use Final Cut Pro and if you need a small camera, the JVC HM100 is a good camera for the size and price. It is around $2800 for the body, maybe $5k with all the trimmings (batteries, cards, mics, wireless, tripods, cases, etc.)

We sometimes partner with photogs from the Sun-Sentinel and they’re mostly using the JVC HM100’s now. They love it because they can just ingest from the card and hand off to their TV folks – they don’t have to edit anything. The editing workflow if you’re Mac-based is great. You can edit right off the cards with Final Cut Pro. But it’s high-def so you still have to deal with render times. The JVC camera doesn’t lend itself to easy manual control so everyone ends up shooting in auto. The zoom is pretty short – only 10x, I think, so it’s not very good for long-throw press conferences or distant spot news. Battery life is poor compared to the competition. The image stabilization is really poor so it doesn’t do well hand-held. But it’s tiny, reasonably well-built, gives a pretty good image, and is lower-priced compared to other video cameras.

However, if you have high-end video folks who are solely dedicated to doing video, get them a better camera. Sony EX1r or the new Canon XF300 if you have the budget, otherwise the tape cameras – either the Sony Z5U or the Canon XHA1S. Tapeless is not the be-all and end-all… if you’re working only for the web and don’t need to broadcast high-def, the ability to down-convert to SD when you capture tape will really reduce your overall work time. Render times are reduced to almost nothing and there is no time spent on archiving. If you’re Final Cut Pro based, get the Canon, which has the bonus of being able to take analog in, so you can record pool feeds right into the camera. If you’re PC based, get the Sony and the optional flash card memory recording unit, which will let you skip the capture part – but I’m told it doesn’t play so well with Final Cut.

I’m not a fan of AVCHD cameras… you’ve got conversion time on the front end and archive time on the back end. But the size and price might make up for the hassle. For low budgets, the $600 Vixia cameras can’t be beat at the price, if you can live with the AVCHD workflow.

For the still cameras, I recommend the Sennheiser MKE400 mini shotgun mic and a Sennheiser wireless mic. Using either one straight into the camera will work fine for nat sound. For more serious audio, skip the xlr adapter and get a Zoom H4N audio recorder (for interviews, music, and press conferences) and teach people to synch up the sound afterwards or to shoot video like it was a Soundslide, with an un-synched audio track. Get an Electro Voice RE50 interview mic for the Zoom, along with the shotgun and wireless lav. Everyone who shoots video should have an RE50 – it’s the most useful mic you can have.

For tripods, skip the Manfrottos, bite the bullet, and get Sachtlers. They’re pro and will last.

Get the reporters a Kodak Zi8 and a $30 wired Audio Technica lavalier mic and a tabletop tripod. Cheap and good enough.

A video storage solution – Voyager Q Drive Dock

June 9, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on A video storage solution – Voyager Q Drive Dock 

Through the South Florida Final Cut Pro Users Group, I got my hands on this new drive dock.

It looks like a toaster.

For small slices of bread.

The NewerTech Voyager Q drive dock is a quad-interface external drive dock that takes bare SATA drives in a slot on top.

It has a lever on the front, a slot on top, and a black-and-silver kitchen appliance color scheme. Just like your toaster.

But unlike your toaster, the Voyager dock has two firewire 800 and one firewire 400 ports, an SATA port, and a mini USB2 port. You can use the firewire interface to boot your Mac.

It takes both 3.5″ desktop and 2.5″ notebook SATA drives – and you can hot swap them.

If you’re a drive junkie always looking for your next fix of free space, this dock is terrific. You can order bare drives in bulk and pop them into the dock like your morning pastry. Less shelf space to worry about and much cheaper than buying external drives.

The day OWC sent me this dock for review, it saved me a lot of grief. The video card in my Mac Pro went out, leaving me in the dark. I was lost. I needed happy hour at the Genius bar. But first, I needed to clone my precious boot drive before taking the computer into the Apple store.

I hooked the Mac Pro to my laptop’s firewire 800 port and put the tower into target mode, and then plugged the Voyager dock into an Express Card eSATA adapter.

I fired up Carbon Copy Cloner and put it to work. It started copying at about 100 gigs an hour. Did the job quickly.

Later, I used Black Magic’s to check the speed of a Hitachi 1TB 7200rpm drive in the dock. With an ESATA connection, it reports 96.3 MB/s read and 97.8 MB/s write. With a firewire 800 connection, it reports 83.6 MB/s read and 58.5 write speeds.

It has the look and feel of most Chinese electronics… ABS plastic, and a little unpolished. But it pops the drives in and out just fine and the interface ports work great. In what must qualify as a modern miracle, it comes with all four cables: firewire 800 and 400 cables, sata, and usb cables. Its brain is an Oxford 934DSb chipset. It uses an auto-switching, UL-listed, external power brick that puts out 12 volts/3A from 100-240v, 50/60 Hz power. It has a one year warranty.

The specs at say that it has data transfer rates up to 3.0GB/s; that it is RoHS Compliant and CE approved, and that it is roughly 4″ x 6″ x 3 inches. It has an LED on the front that shows blue when the power is on and flashes red when the disk is busy. It’s just as silent as the drive you put in it, since it has no fan or other moving parts. It will take up to a 2.0TB drive.

Mac accessories retailer Other World Computing, at, is selling the Voyager Q for $89.99 and is offering it bundled with drives as well.

(I’m not being compensated for this review and have no connection with OWC nor NewerTech.  I liked the dock enough to buy the review unit at full price.)

(Originally posted November 16, 2009)

Report from NAB, the world’s largest trade show for video, broadcast, and TV

April 15, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on Report from NAB, the world’s largest trade show for video, broadcast, and TV 

NAB is the world’s biggest conference for TV, film and video producers, with miles of halls filled with equipment on display.

This year it’s all about 3D and DSLR cameras. It seems like every booth has either dslr rigs or 3D lenses and equipment – or both. Biggest news of the show: B&H isn’t giving a show discount this year.

Most of the new stuff seems to be 3D related, but there are a couple of interesting cameras here.

The new Canon XF300 handycam is a tapeless big brother to the XHA1 but has full 1920×1080 chips that have amazing resolution. Even though it is a 1/3″ chip camera, you’d never believe it from the resolution charts I saw. This is serious competition to the big chip broadcast cameras, and has 4:2:2 color and a high data rate. Around six or seven grand price, depending on the model.

Panasonic and Sony both talked about budget cinema large-chip cameras but neither have anything you can handle.

The serious people are spending serious money on DSLR rigs with setups built around 1Dmk4 or 5D bodies with Cooke, Zeiss or Leica lenses that eclipse the price of the body by several orders of magnitude. There’s a lot of buzz about the last episode of House being shot entirely on 5D mk2’s – it airs May 17.

LED lights are everywhere you turn and prices are coming down.

I’ve spent the last two days buried in the world of broadband, iptv, and mobile video at NAB, so don’t have much new camera porn for you all. As I sit here amongst the slot machines at my airport gate, here’s a ‘stuff’ update.

The acronym for today is OTT – which stands for ‘over the top’ delivery of iptv to settop boxes. A new ‘freedom’ chip is coming on the market which will give settop tv boxes the power of computers and will enable tv, vod, and web access via the internet. – bypassing the cable company. This seems like a pretty big deal to me, but it was well-hidden at this broadcast event.

There were a bunch of cool things for ipads and iphones. VeriCorder has a non-linear video editor for the iPhone which is fairly amazing. They’re also going to market xlr adapters for the iPhone as well as plug-in mics. The pro NLE is $300 per year, but they have a consumer app for $10 that does some editing.

On the content delivery front, a new company to join the likes of Brightcove, VMix, etc is a Virginia company called Voped. They have a pretty good administrative interface, decent metrics and seemed like bright, capable and nice people. They automatically transcode for different formats, including mobile. Bandwidth costs about $1k per terabyte per month.

There were an overwhelming number of rigs for dslrs and the Zeiss folks were beating people back from their booth – all of whom had their checkbooks out for a $24,000 set of compact prime lenses. The uptake of dslrs is amazing. Canon had a huge presence at the show, with almost continuous presentations of shows by the likes of Vincent Laforet. The crowds were huge in front of that part of the Canon booth while the broadcast folks were standing around their beautiful expensive tv lenses with no one to talk to. Zeiss, Leica, and Cooke all had lenses for the Canons in their booths. Nikon was not visible at all at the show.

(Sorry, but I don’t know much about the new big-chip cameras announced by Panasonic and Sony. Panasonic will have a micro-four/thirds video camera at the end of 2010. Sony said they’re working on a big-chip camera but didn’t have mockups yet.)

Also overwhelming was the number of new LED based lighting systems. They’re starting to get the color temperature under control on the less-expensive units and a lot of them now have a switch to change from daylight to tungsten without having to use filters. Chinese LED lights were in every other booth and most looked the same but Filmgear, repped by Birns and Sawyer, looked to be quality stuff.

I went to the FCPUG Supermeet last night and saw presentations on Adobe CS5, Avid, and DaViinci color correction, along with 3D production (which is not at all simple.) Apple’s product manager for Final Cut Pro spoke at the event and highlighted many third-party developments. He did not say a single word about Apple’s plans for Final Cut.

NAB is the biggest trade show I’ve ever been to and I’m used to some big ones back home. It has three huge halls full of video and TV stuff. Never having been before, I don’t have much to compare it to, but I left with the impression that the whole TV industry has it’s head in the sand. Marketing for the show highlighted convergence and broadband, but the number of vendors and presentations on broadband and iptv was really pretty small. 3D seemed to be where people thought there was money to be made.

A shout-out to the list folks who got together at NAB – it was great and gratifying to meet you folks!

Interesting new Canon Vixia HFS 21 camera

January 11, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on Interesting new Canon Vixia HFS 21 camera 

Canon announced a bunch of new cameras at CES. One that caught my attention was the new HFS 21 AVCHD camera.

It has dual SD card slots, downconverts to Mpeg4, and works with EyeFi cards. This theoretically means you could post video directly from the camera. And they put a viewfinder and a LanC jack on it. Woohoo!

Here’s Canon’s press announcement:

“VIXIA HF S-series:

The Canon VIXIA HF S21, VIXIA HF S20 and VIXIA HF S200 Flash Memory camcorders are Canon’s premiere camcorders with professional and easy-to-use features to allow anyone to capture outstanding HD video quality. The VIXIA HF S-series comes equipped with varying levels of internal flash memory and all feature two SD card slots for maximum storage capacity and easy video transfer. The VIXIA HF S21 and VIXIA HF S20 camcorders incorporate 64GB and 32GB of internal flash memory, respectively, and the VIXIA HF S200 records video directly to removable SD memory cards. Recording Full 1920 x 1080 HD video, these camcorders feature a Genuine Canon 10x HD Video Lens and a Canon 1/2.6-inch, 8.59-megapixel Full HD CMOS Image Sensor for stunning video and outstanding photos up to 8.0 megapixels. All three models in the VIXIA HF S-series include Canon’s new 3.5-inch High Resolution (922,000-dot) Touch Panel LCD screen for a large, bright display and easy menu navigation, including Touch & Track technology. All of the models in this series also feature Canon’s Smart Auto, Relay Recording, Powered IS, HD-to-SD Downconversion, and Advanced Video Snapshot.

In addition, the VIXIA HF S-Series includes a host of professional features such as a built-in LANC terminal, and Native 24p (AVCHD) recording. For shooting outside on a sunny day, the VIXIA HF S21 includes a viewfinder which offers a reliable viewing environment when shooting in bright outdoor conditions. The VIXIA HF S21, VIXIA HF S20 and VIXIA HF S200 Flash Memory camcorders are scheduled to be available in April, and will have an estimated retail price of $1399.99, $1099.99 and $999.99 respectively.”

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