Archive for February, 2011

World Builder

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

One of the best short films I’ve seen in awhile. Take a few minutes out of your day to watch it and I think you’ll agree that it’s time well spent. You can find it here. Nice surprise at the end.

– Don

Apple’s Pro Res – Which One?

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

There are 5 members of the Apple Pro Res family and they are all based on the same basic properties. Pro Res is an “I frame” codec, meaning that each frame is a self contained picture, needing no help from adjacent pictures to determine its content. This is different from other video compression schemes such as MPEG2 Long GOP (group of pictures). This format has only one (1) complete picture for every 15 frames of video, the other 14 using the information from adjacent partial frames to complete each frame. There are pros and cons to each format.

1. “I frame” video is less processor intensive during the editing process but since the data rates are higher you need a bigger pipe between hard drive and computer to get all that information in and out. I frame codecs can also take more editing cycles before they start to lose quality.

2. Long GOP takes up less space on your hard drive and therefore a smaller in and out pipe, but is much more processor intensive because each time you make an edit cut the computer has to “conform” or rebuild each 15 frame segment of video.

Apple invented the Pro Res family to strike a balance between processor intensive codecs and the heavy I frame codecs that took up enormous space on hard drives and huge data transfer rates (in and out pipes).

So which flavour of Pro Res is right for you? Well since you asked let’s get to it.

1. Pro Res 422 Proxy is the lowest data rate member of the family and as the name implies it’s primarily used as an “offline” codec. Think of its use as a ‘placeholder’ for editing. When the edit is complete it can easily be replaced by the higher resolution codec that was shot at the same time. All the flavours of Pro Res have the same frame size so you can easily swap out one for the other without having to change the original sizes of your graphics, pictures etc.

2 Pro Res 422 LT is perfect for ENG style shooting where you know there will be minimal colour correction or anything else that will modify the video no more than a few times during the edit process. Shooting ‘talking heads’ for example, would be a perfect use for Pro Res 422 LT.

3. Pro Res 422 is the highest most of us will need to get great quality that can stand up to many editing cycles without falling apart. Under normal circumstances here is virtually no perceivable difference between this and Pro Res 422 HQ.

4. Where you would use Pro Res 422 HQ is when you plan to do green screen shooting, as this codec will have a better chance of pulling high quality keys. If I was shooting a full length feature film I would also use this codec.

5. Pro Res 4×4. This is the ultimate Pro Res family member that was only recently added. It is of course, full raster with high data rates and works in the 4:4:4 colour space with an alpha channel. If you’re going to use tons of special effects, compositing, rotoscoping etc. then this one’s for you.

Most of us will use Pro Res 422 and Pro Res 422 LT and will rarely have a need for anything else. For a more complete story you can find Apple’s white paper on the Pro Res family here.

– Don

Ki Pro Mini – The Results

Friday, February 25th, 2011

We decided that today (Feb 24) would be a good day to shoot some test footage with our recently aquired Ki Pro Mini. The weather is clear, cold and windy. Okay, cold for us on the west coast but for anyone visiting it’s just cool-ish. We went back to the same spot to shoot that we used when I bought my first EX1 back in January 2007.

I’ll be shooting with the 4 types of Pro Res 422 that the device uses and comparing to the same shot from the Sony SxS Pro memory card. There is actually a 5th Pro Res family member called Pro Res 4:4:4:4  or Pro Res 4×4 and it is a 12 bit pixel depth codec with a lossless alpha channel, hence the extra #4. Since the Ki Pro Mini is outputting a maximum pixel depth of 10 bits in the 4:2:2 colour space the reason this 4×4 flavour is not included in the Ki Pro Mini’s codec selection becomes obvious.

Later that day……

When we got back from our test shoot to my dismay there were NO NEW CLIPS on the Lexar CF card! During the recording there was no indication from the device’s screen that anything was amiss. The record light was on, the TC was advancing as well as the shot number each time the XDCAM EX1R stopped and started during the recording process. The status screen even said “System Normal.” Now I’m trying to determine if the issue is the man or the machine.

The next day – Feb. 25 2011…….

Last night I did a few indoor still life shots and the Ki Pro Mini recorded everything flawlessly, so yesterday’s testing wasn’t a total loss. The 2 frame grabs immediately below are the EX1R shots. The 2 picture below those are from the Ki Pro Mini shooting Pro Res 422 (standard).

Yesterday afternoon I also shot the peak of the neighbour’s roof. As you can see (when you magnify the picture to 400x) there are compression artifacts in areas of high contrast in the EX1R picture but hardly anything in the Pro Res HQ picture. Right or control click on the images and save them to your desktop. After magnifying the pictures to 400% you’ll see what I mean.

So what changed from having no clips recorded in the Mini yesterday afternoon to last night when I recorded the above still life and roof shots? I formatted the Lexar 32G card again and that seemed to solve it. However, the fact that the Ki Pro Mini told me it was recording to the card normally when it really wasn’t certainly doesn’t instill a lot of confidence. As I said, the device was rolling TC, told me the status was normal, kept advancing clip numbers and even showed a diminishing amount of storage left on the card in a percentile. By the way, when I had finished recording outside the Mini was showing 31 clips total on the Lexar CF card. When I inserted the card into the USB reader and discovered no new clips I then put the card back into the Mini. The clip count was back to 19 which was the amount on the card prior to the outdoor shoot. Perhaps it’s the card, or it’s me. Further testing is certainly needed.

Things to check prior to recording:

1. Even if the Mini gives you a system normal status, make sure that none of the 3 Status, Config or Media buttons are lit by pressing the stop button.

2.The slot/card you want to record to must be lit on top of the unit as well as the front panel light in steady green. When you press record on your camera those two green lights will start blinking.

3. When ejecting a card first press the STOP button even though the unit is not recording. If you don’t and press the slot button on the front panel first the light will not go out to signify that the card has been unmounted. Getting frustrated and pulling out the card may result in data loss. Push the STOP button first and everything should work as advertised.

More to come.

UPDATE: 02/25/11 10:00 pm.

Thanks to John Heagy who posted a similar issue in the AJA Ki Pro forum at Creative COW. His company’s Ki Pro Mini has the same issues as my own. If a CF card is inserted before you start the Mini you’ll get a “false clip” reading from the unit. If you start up and then insert the CF card the Mini will record normally. I’ll test this theory tomorrow.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Update: 02/26/11 9:45 pm

Don’t boot up the Ki Pro Mini with CF cards already inserted and then hit record. The Mini will advance the clips as you start and stop the recording but nothing will be recorded. The Mini’s status will even show a decreasing amount of CF card space remaining, etc.

Start the Ki Pro Mini with no cards inserted. Once the startup is complete then insert the CF card(s) and the unit will record normally. This info is critical if, for example, you send an employee out on a job with the Mini without prior knowledge. They’ll come home empty handed and be none the wiser.

As John mentioned in his post, if you start up with 2 cards inserted and if you switch to the second card right away using the slot select button you’ll be able to record normally. I’m also assuming that when that card gets full you’ll be able to switch back to the first card without issue. I can’t corroborate this because I only own one CF card at the moment.

Until AJA comes up with a solution please follow the above guidelines. The above situation has been confirmed by another Ki Pro Mini user at : Creative COW.net

Genesis Matrix Viral Video Contest

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Announcing Genesis Matrix Video’s inaugural video contest! This is a chance for you to create a spoof on your favorite viral video and creatively represent Genesis Matrix in a video of 60 seconds or less.

We’ve got over $5000 in cash and prizes to give away, so if you like money and making videos then WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!

For more info:
www.matrixvideo.ca/contest.html
www.facebook.com/GenesisMatrixVideo
Twitter: @MatrixProShop

Matrix-Video-viral-video-contest.jpg (123 KB)

Ki Pro Mini Setup

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

About a week ago I finally acquired my Ki Pro Mini but only now have I had the time to write about it. I ordered it back in September when they were first announced, which is why mine showed up before the broadcast supply houses in my area. With AJA it’s first come first served, which is how it should be. This article will be a recap of what it takes to get the Mini up and running with portable battery power as well as some of the ‘gotchas’ that hopefully you’ll avoid by reading this. Who was it that once said “Learn from the mistakes of others because you’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Today I went down to my local broadcast supply house with the Mini to get a battery for this new toy. The folks there were more than helpful and eager to get me up and running. In the process we all learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. The Mini requires an electrical supply between 12 to 18 volts with a sustained amperage of 3.3, which translates to about 30 watts, as I found out. First we were going to try a ‘D-Tap’ system that uses a battery similar to the Sony BP-U60 for my XDCAM EX cameras but it turns out that there is only 10 watts left for the cable used to connect to another device. I guess this is okay if you’re running an LED light, etc. but not nearly enough for the Mini. After a few more minutes of discussion I decided to go with an Anton Bauer setup which offers an elegant solution but is also the most expensive one. The combination battery plate, inline charger and battery literally dwarfs the Ki Pro Mini.

Since I had ordered one of the Mini optional mounting plates It was a simple matter of finding out which Anton Bauer mounting plate (called a Gold Mount) was the right one for the job. This is determined by the hole patterns on the Ki Pro Mini’s optional plate. The The Anton Bauer Gold Mount for a Panasonic shoulder mount camera is one you want. It bolts up directly to the many holes in the Mini mount and is very solid. The inline Anton Bauer charger I chose is called a Tandem 70 which gives you the luxury of being able to connect to house power and charge the battery at the same time. Nice. The actual battery I went with was the Dionic 90 which, if our math is correct, should keep the Ki Pro Mini running for 6 or 7 hours. Since my end goal is to have this setup mounted behind either my EX1R or EX3 I will be ordering a second Ki Pro Mini mount so I can put the whole system on 15mm rods with the appropriate tripod plate mount. I also have an EX1R bottom plate ordered from Juice Designs.

NOTE: if you decide to go the Anton Bauer route then buying bottom EX1R and EX3 plates from DM Accessories or Juice Designs is an absolute must with this much extra weight. Without them you run the real risk of tearing out the stock (and flimsy) tripod mounting plates on these cameras.

Ki Pro Mini Setup

The easiest and fastest way to set up the unit is to use the CAT5 connection. Once connected to your computer’s Ethernet port or through your router, start up Safari (the recommended browser) and set your IP address to DHCP. If everything is connected properly the Ki Pro Mini will connect automatically and your browser will display all the parameters and options, which looks sort of like filling out an online form. If the unit doesn’t connect automatically, the PDF manual that comes with the unit on the CD will talk you through things. Doing it this way, at least for me, was preferable to drilling down into the unit’s menu structure and changing all the parameters manually. For some of you, setting up the unit using the Ki Pro Mini’s buttons will be the way to go. The PDF manual is well thought out and informative. Make sure you take the time to read it. As you can see there are 7 available screens with the Config. menu as the one being shown in the picture.

If you’re like most users who will want the Ki Pro Mini to start recording when you hit the camera’s record button there are a few important things to watch out for. In the SDI pipeline is a protocol known as “SDI RP 188.” This is the one you want to activate in the TC preferences. Then make sure in the Arm Recording field you see “TCREC/KEY. This means that the Ki Pro Mini looks for timecode from the SDI signal and will start recording when the TC starts running in the camera. If you have a camera that doesn’t have imbedded TC in the SDI stream there are other options described in the PDF manual.

Make sure the recording format in the Ki Pro Mini matches the one in your camera. The unit records to Pro Res 422 in 4 different flavours so choose the one that will do the job for your subject matter. If you choose Pro Res 422 HQ and all you’re doing is shooting talking heads you’re wasting bandwidth and precious storage space on your CF cards. In this situation I would choose Pro Res 422 LT which is around 100 Mbits per Sec. Keep in mind that you’re good for broadcast requirements at anything over 50 Mbits per sec.

UPDATE: It was just pointed out to me that the 50Mbits sec. broadcast standard may be for Long GOP codecs and not for all codecs. It may be that I-Frame codecs like Pro Res may have a minimum standard of 1oo Mbits sec. To be totally sure, get in touch with each broadcaster you intend to submit to and ask them what their standards are. Different broadcasters have different standards.

Some numbers. The bit rates of the various Pro Res codecs are right from Apple’s Pro Res white paper. On a 32G CF card you’ll have enough room for:

Pro Res 422 (PROXY) @45Mbits sec. – 79 min.record time.

Pro Res 422 (LT) @102Mbits sec – 37 min. record time

Pro Res 422 @147Mbits sec. – 25 min. record time

Pro Res 422 (HQ) @220Mbits sec – 17 min. record time

As you can see. if you want any sort of decent recording times without offloading frequently you’re going to need at least 2 64Gig CF cards. There are some card choices listed at the AJA web site as well as on the PDF manual on the provided CD.

As a rule, you’ll need a CF card with a 90 Megabyte per second transfer rate, otherwise you’ll drop frames and get the dreaded Ki Pro Mini warnings. SanDisk just came out with a 128G Extreme Pro at a data rate of 100 so that one for sure will be listed by AJA in the near future. Trouble is, the card retails for $1499.00 CAD. Ouch.

When you insert your CF card make sure it’s in the slot snugly. If you get a flashing slot light on the front panel(not the top one by the slot), the card is NOT seated and you won’t be able to record. When the light is a steady green then you’ll know that the card has a good connection. I had trouble with the Lexar card I bought and had to pull it in and out a few times before it made a solid connection in any of the 2 slots. I’ll assume that once the card has been in and out a few times it won’t be an issue. NOTE: Beware that if you yank the card out before unmounting it via the slot select button on the front panel first you’ll get a “Format Card” prompt as well as risking real data loss. Pretty important.

A big thanks to Greg and Lorne of Lorne Lapham Sales and Rentals for spending a couple of hours getting me up and running, battery-wise. I’ll add to this article in the next day or so with some frame grab comparos between the SxS Pro cards and the various flavours of Pro Res from the Ki Pro Mini. And when I find out where my wife filed the receipt for the Anton Bauer stuff I’ll also post some part numbers.

– Don

Shooting with the new Sony F3 (Super35mm)

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I recently directed and was 2nd Unit DoP on a film with the new Sony PMW-F3 Super35mm camera. Amazing imagery, terrific sensitivity and fantastic latitude!

Sony F3

Sony F3

Fusion Cine

Thursday, February 10th, 2011
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Fusion Cine is a brand new 20 year old company. Evolving from Matrix Video, to Genesis Matrix, and now into Fusion Cine, we have adapted and become the missing link. Fusion Cine combines all acquisition, post production, and archiving standards & equipment, to assist all levels of production, from student filmmaker to experienced cinematographer.

If you shoot, produce or post, you’ll find everything you need at Fusion Cine. The term Fusion is commonly used to describe the joining of two elements, whether it be two nuclear atoms or two different ethnic foods, to result in something much more powerful. This is the basis from which Fusion Cine Sales & Rentals Inc. is built upon. The fusion of Broadcast and Professional video technology with Cinematic creativity and vision, allows us to provide the best tailor-made experience for our customers. By joining these two elements under one roof, our knowledgeable and dedicated team made up of industry professionals is able to ensure that every angle of our customers’ experience has been customized to address their specific need, from acquisition to post to data management and archiving.

Through our passion for digital innovation, and commitment to outstanding customer service, we strive to work with each client to achieve their goals. We treat every transaction with integrity and professionalism and create an environment that fosters success for us and our clients.

Contact us today.

Visit our website
We offer 15% off all rentals for BCPVA members with proof of membership.

Follow us:
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1469 Venables Street
Vancouver, BC V5L 2G1
604 879 0003

The Path to a Better Picture

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

As I have mentioned in a previous blog post I have on order a new type of recorder called the AJA Ki-Pro Mini®. This device attaches to any camera via either HDMI or SDI and will record at a much higher (adjustable) bit rate than the host camera can. Well, after many weeks of delays AJA finally started shipping the units about a week ago.

What does this mean for you? It means no more picture artifacts during fast action/panning/tilt shots because of too much picture compression. Codecs such as HDV, AVCHD and to a lesser extent MPEG2 are all subject to ‘breaking the codec’ because the compression can’t keep up with the action.

  • HDV’s compression rate is 15 Mbits per second
  • AVCHD’s top compression rate is 24 Mbits per second
  • MPEG2 tops out at 35 Mbits per second for XDCAM EX and some JVC cameras.

If you’re shooting for broadcast the minimum requirement is 50 Mbits per second so that leaves XDCAM HD® shoulder mount cameras which are many times the cost of the handhelds. By the way your mileage will differ depending on the network you’re trying to sell your product to.

Both AJA’s Ki Pro® and Ki Pro-Mini® are solely for the Mac crowd as they shoot directly to Apple’s Pro Res codec in 5 different compression formats, depending on how much quality is required. What’s interesting is that the proxy version of Pro Res is 45 Mbits p.s. which is 10 more than the highest quality setting in my XDCAM EX cameras.

For everyone else the recorder of choice is Convergent Design’s Nano Flash® which records to MPEG2 in many different bit rates, again depending on what sort of picture quality you require. The Nano Flash starts out at 50 Mbits p.s. and goes up to 280 Mbits p.s. ( I think). Mac editors can still use the Nano Flash but the cost for the Ki Pro-Mini is less.

Both recorders have 2 Compact Flash (CF) slots. However, when one card is full only the Nano Flash will automatically jump to the empty card without losing any video frames. The cards of both units are also hot swappable, meaning you can remove the the full CF card and replace it with an empty one while the units continue to record on the card that is not full. When the second card is full the Nano Flash will jump back to the first slot.

NOTE:

If your subject matter is talking heads, seminars etc, you won’t see much difference between your camera’s picture and the picture from the auxiliary unit because there’s not enough action to stress the codec. Keep in mind though,  that simple things such as rippling water and rustling leaves will stress the codec and the picture quality from the auxiliary unit will be obvious (depending on your camera’s standard bit rate).

Both the Ki Pro-Mini and the Nano Flash use CF cards and of course, the most expensive ones are recommended because they have to handle the high bit rates being output to the units. The secret to the success of both the Nano-Flash and the Ki Pro-Mini is that they bypass the compression stage in the camera and record the image directly from the camera head.

Here’s a price breakdown of one particular CF card manufacturer based on card capacity:

Sandisk Extreme Pro Compact Flash card®

  • 16 GB – $279.00 USD
  • 32 GB – $503.00 USD
  • 64 GB – $895.00 USD
  • 128 GB – $1499.00 USD

As you can see, the price of quality isn’t cheap. As for the price of the recording units, the Nano Flash is around $2995.00 USD and the Ki Pro-Mini is $1995.00 USD.

The card capacity that you buy would be determined by the amount of compression you’re willing to dial in. You want a bit rate that will do the job without compression artifacts but no more than that otherwise you’re wasting storage space on the CF cards. For example:

  • 35Mbits per second equals 1.4 Gbytes of storage space for every 5 minutes of video
  • Apple Pro Res 422 Proxy@45Mbits is 2.0 Gbytes of space for 5 minutes
  • Apple Pro Res 422 Light@102Mbits is 4.4 Gbytes of space for 5 min.
  • Apple Pro Res 422@147Mbits is 6.3 Gbytes of space for 5 min.
  • Apple Pro Res 422 HQ@220Mbits is 9.4 Gbytes of storage space for 5 min.

And the list goes on.

If I did the math for what I would normally shoot at which would be Apple Pro Res 422 (LT) I would fill up a 32 Gbyte CF card in 36 minutes.

It’s that old saying again: Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go? The huge advantage of the Ki Pro-Mini and the Nano Flash is that you can upgrade the picture quality of your existing hand held camera to rival shoulder mount cameras costing many times the price.

– Don

Not that you don’t know this already

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

I spent a couple days making a howto video on how average people can make a DIY Video.

I’m assuming all BCPVA members already know this kind of stuff, but thought I’d share or that you might want to pass this on to people who are looking to do it themselves. My thinking behind this was that this type of video might be good for small businesses that want to produce a ton of online videos but can’t afford to pay our professional selves for all those videos. If it’s going to be a DIY effort, might as well make sure it looks good.

I’ll be doing some follow up videos on this subject matter, such as choosing equipment, uploading and distribution, and how to choose a professional videographer of video production company.

Do You Know What a Cool BCPVA Meeting Would Be?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Vimeo Video School

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Hey Y’all,

I found out that Vimeo has a video school. It has ultra basic stuff, 101 classes on making a movie, but it also has pro tutorials as well.

So, if you want to teach a beginner, send them that way. If you want to learn some more for your pro biz, go there as well. Something for everyone!

http://vimeo.com/videoschool