Friday, October 23, 2009

Flipping out

Christopher Breen has a review of the Flip MinoHD (120 minutes) and seems to be generally happy with it:

...the Flip MinoHD [is now] my new favorite pocket camcorder.

Like other cameras, the results of its low-light shooting can be grainy. However, it compensates for the wild color shifts you get from some of these cameras. Under typical lamp light, for example, most pick up a yellow cast and a few over-compensate and bring too much blue to the picture. The new MinoHD gets much closer to the true color—white objects are white instead of yellow.

All good stuff, but is anyone else getting confused by Flip's product line, and what does what? A look at their products page reveals the following models:

  1. Mino 60min MSRP$149.99
    Screen: 528 x 132, Video: 640 x 480 Bitrate:4Mbps
    3.94” x 1.97” x 0.63” (H x W x D)
  2. Ultra 120min MSRP $149.99
    Screen: 960 x 240, Video: 640 x 480 Bitrate:4Mbps
    4.25" x 2.19" x 1.17" (H x W x D)
  3. UltraHD 120min MSRP $199.99
    Screen: 960 x 240, Video: 1280 x 720 Bitrate:9Mbps
    4.25" x 2.19" x 1.17" (H x W x D)
    Video Out: HDMI Mini Connector
  4. MinoHD 60min MSRP $199.99
    Screen: 528 x 132, Video: 1280 x 720 Bitrate:9Mbps
    3.94” x 1.97” x 0.63” (H x W x D)

    Video Out: Composite Cable
  5. MinoHD 120min MSRP $229.99
    Screen: 960 x 240, Video: 1280 x 720 Bitrate:9Mbps
    3.94" x 1.97" x 0.66" (H x W x D)
    Video Out: HDMI Mini Connector

I've only included a few specifications here, and ignoring the first two - because they do only standard video - I guess what puzzles me is the UltraHD/MinoHD 60/Mino HD 120. They all support 720p, but the physical size, recording length, screen and video out connections seem to be the key differences. When you boil it down, it seems to be that the MinoHD 60 has the shorter recording time and no HDMI. While the UltraHD and MinoHD 120min match on recording time, screen and video out, but the MinoHD 120 is smaller (and more expensive.)

So unless size is the key, buy the UltraHD, right? Except if Chris's article is to be believed, the quality of image produced by the three camera's is notably different, with the MinoHD 120 doing much better in indoor light.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pro Applications Update 2009-01

Apple has released an update to Final Cut Studio 3:

Pro Applications Update 2009-01 addresses general compatibility issues, improves overall stability, and addresses a number of other minor issues. This update is recommended for all users of Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Server, and Logic Studio.

Issues addressed in this update include the following.

Final Cut Pro

  • Addresses a problem when playing certain formats to the AJA Io HD.
  • Fixes cases in which applying a speed change results in video playing backward.
  • Fixes cases in which tearing can occur with Digital Cinema Desktop Preview on Snow Leopard.


  • Fixes issues that occur when using Depth of Field with an animated focal point.
  • Addresses issues with text characters not being correctly displayed for languages that are not written from left to right.
  • Fixes issues with image clipping, memory management, and image position that could occur with some third-party FxPlug filters.


  • Fixes the ability to inspect surround sound jobs.
  • Addresses a problem with automatic resizing of some videos.
  • Improves quality when using the Frame Controls Resize Filter.

Soundtrack Pro

  • Fixes issue with installer.


  • Addresses IRE shifts between live image and Still Store.

For more detailed information about the changes in an application, choose Release Notes from the application's Help menu.

Ken Burns - Documenting History

This Saturday, October 24th, is the Boston Book Festival, and Ken Burns is one of the participants in a panel: Documenting History
Documentarians work to answer the question, “Who are we?” Ken Burns, lauded as “the country's most famous documentarian” by the Los Angeles Times, shows clips and talks about his latest film and book, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Journalist Scout Tufankjian tells how she reluctantly drove to New Hampshire in 2006 to cover a long-shot candidate named Obama. She stayed and became the only independent photojournalist to cover the entire campaign, chronicled in her book Yes We Can.

Something Different - Lead like a great conductor

Unless you’re a movie director, or you’re working with a large crew on a project, this talk by Itay Talgam at TEDGlobal2009 is probably not going to have a lot of impact on your day to day behavior. And yet it is very compelling. In Lead like the great conductors, conductor Talgam shows the styles of different conductors and how they relate to leadership, authority, harmony and creativity within a group. And as the description says, it is also a charming talk. Well worth spending 20 minutes on.


I have an iPhone, but unfortunately, it's the 3G, not the 3GS - no video for me!

Still, ReelDirector looks interesting; it provides basic video editing capabilities; add a title, trim clips and add transitions. For $8, it's pretty neat, and the video's you can produce with it might even rival those we used to produce in Premiere 1.0!

There's a short review at ReelDirector: Full-featured Video Editing Comes to the iPhone

And a demo video on YouTube:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Canon News

Well it’s Canon news today. First the Canon 1D Mark IV was announced earlier this week. You can read about it at dpreview. It offers the same video support as the 7D:
• MOV (Video: H.264, Sound: Linear PCM)
• 1920 x 1080 (29.97, 25, 23.976 fps)
• 1280 x 720 (59.94, 50 fps)
• 640 x 480 (59.94, 50 fps)
• Max duration: 29min 59sec
• Max file size: 4GB

At $5,000, it’s too expensive for me, but I was curious to see that it uses an APS-H sensor with a 1.3 crop factor; the sensor is larger than the 7D, but not full frame. Interestingly, when rumors were flying around about the 7D, some suggested that it would have an APS-H sensor. It looks like the rumor mill might have mixed up the two cameras!

The 1D Mark IV is expected in December. While it supports higher ISO than the 7D, I’m not sure that there’s any other reason to want to spend the extra money if your primary interest is video. I guess we’ll have to wait for more field reports and sample video.

Vincent Laforet has done another video, though it’s been taken down at the moment. You can see some other samples on Canon’s site.
UPDATE: It's on YouTube here.

Canon 5D Mark II firmware update coming
To many people’s surprise - okay then, mine - Canon now says that they will have a firmware update for the 5D Mark II that supports 24 and 25fps video. This is both expected and unexpected; there was clearly a big demand from users for support for those frame rates, and Canon had already shipped one firmware update that added Manual support. But it’s very unusual for Canon to update hardware like this. Also, there had been reports that Canon had initially thought about updating the frame rate, but then held it up because of increased jello effects (note: that’s a rumor.)

With the arrival of the 7D, and it's dedicated video function button and support for 720p 60fps, I was leaning towards the theory that Canon was going to replace the 5D sooner rather than later. Now with the plan for a firmware update, I can’t help but think that this means an update to the 5D is a lot further out, and that the firmware patch is an interim fix.

It's not expected until next year, which is interesting because all the conspiracy theorists - who thought Canon was holding off to protect their video camera business - like to imply that it's really easy to do. If that's the case, why announce it now, but not ship for three or four months?

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what they come up with; and I remain doubtful that they’ll add support for 720p!
Canon today announces that it is currently developing a firmware update to the EOS 5D Mark II to enable the recording of high definition 1080p video at 24 and 25fps. The decision to develop new firmware to support these features has been taken following feedback received from cinematographers and photographers. […]Canon currently expects the firmware update to be made available during the first half of 2010.

Canon 7D firmware and picture style
Canon 7D owners should check out Marvelsfilm’s blog. He’s been writing about his experience (and problems) with the 7D, particularly a problem with pattern noise. He also has a picture style that adjusts the video to better match video captured with the Sony EX1, and may also be better for getting a “cine” look:
This Picture Style, that can be downloaded to your camera with the EOS Utility, introduces a S-gammacurve that lifts the black levels is shadows and “low-mids” and compresses the highlights, resulting in an over-all increased latitude – and a decrease in contrast. This can be compared with a crossbreed of Cine gamma 1 and 4 that you find in the Sony EX cameras. Some viewers will translate the picture as “flat”, but it will give you much more control in post. Also, this profile is ideal for use with these particular 7D cameras that have problems with the Highlight Priority setting; the dynamic range of this profile has already been “moved” towards both highlights and blacks.
Since you still have control over the Picture Style settings, you can adjust the strength of the S-Curve by changing the Contrast value. Move it down to exaggerate the S-curve and move it up to flatten the S-Curve (more linear).
Link: Canon 7D Picture Style with Cine-gamma (S) Curve

Go on, Treat Yourself

New Apple Hardware

Apple rolled out new iMac’s, new Mac Mini’s a new low-end MacBook, and a new Mouse. The iMac’s are interesting because:
  1. 16:9 screens
    They changed the aspect ratio of the screens to 16:9. Which is great if you’re working with 16:9 video. Otherwise, not too sure how it really helps/hinders the average user.
  2. 21.5 inch display is exactly 1920 x 1080
    The previous model - the 20 incher - had a resolution of 1680 by 1050 pixels, not so good for watching/editing 1080 video.
  3. Core i5 and i7 quad-core processors
    If you have the cash, you can get a quad-core processor. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of software makes full use of these…it will be interesting to see whether these chips make a significant improvement in compression times
  4. 21.5 model has 8-bit video
    Previously, the lower-end iMac video was only 6-bit, so for those looking to use a low-end iMac for video or image editing, that’s good news.
  5. You can connect a second external display using the mini DisplayPort
  6. 27-inch can be used as an external monitor for MacBook using the same miniDisplayPort
    It appears that you can't do this with the 21.5 model.

The bad news: No Blu-ray. Can’t say I’m really surprised, and yet I had been hopeful!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Alex Bickel - Colorist

Alex Bickel is a Colorist for Outside Editorial. He recently spoke at a joint meeting of the Boston Final Cut Pro User Group and the Boston Avid Users Group.

Wearing a bright yellow Steelers cap [inserted for color – Ed], Alex’s talk was primarily about going from Avid to Apple's Color application, but he spent most of his time on the Color application, and really it was a talk on color grading. As well as talking about the process, he offered several tips and tricks.

The demo featured material from an ad that had been shot in four different acquisition formats; a 35mm film camera was used for ease of use in low light, while a Red Camera, a Sony EX3, and the Canon 5D Mark II were used for other material. Interestingly, he noted that the footage from the EX3 was slightly sharper than the Red, and had to be softened a bit to match.

Color's interface consists of Primary and Secondary rooms that are used to apply effects and adjustments. The rooms are applied in order and he stressed that it’s important to remember this; if you make strong contrast adjustments in the Primary room, you can’t “bring back” something in a Secondary room. So Protect your blacks!; don’t brick them down in the Primary room, because you won't be able to bring them back in a Secondary room. He also noted that if you later have to go back and change something in the Primary room it will effect the rest of your adjustments.

Alex said that there are a lot of edit houses in New York that are starting to use Apple’s Color inhouse, replacing more expensive options. Color might not be as good as a daVinci, but it is, he said, almost as good, and a lot cheaper, and Alex believes that it’s more important to know what you are doing, than which tool you're using.

Since the talk covered going from Avid to Color and then back to AutoDesk’s Flame the workflow he presented used Apple’s Animation codec because that’s the only one that Autodesk will recognize. However he has been using the ProRes compressor for some projects, notably a Nike ad he’s working on was supplied in ProRes (ProRes Regular, not 444).

Typically, he said, it takes about 6-8 hours to grade an advertisement.

Alex is a big fan of the Nattress plug-ins, particularly G Blend which he demonstrated with a couple of techniques, adding that he hoped everyone wouldn’t be copying the effect, though I think unless you were already comfortable using Color, it’s unlikely that you’d remember what he did!

Canon 5D Mark II
I was interested to learn that Alex did the color grading for Vincent Lafort’s Reverie, which he said he got involved in through his relationship with Apple. Reverie was the short demo movie that first got everyone excited about the 5D Mark II's video capabilities. He spent about half a day on that project, but added that "we were just kids playing."

Evidently he had a lot of trouble with that first project because it kept breaking down; particularly in the blacks. This might have been due to a problem that existed prior to QuickTime 7.6 with H.264 and how it was handling the colorspace and placing the luma at 16 instead of 0. The 7.6 update fixed that problem.

The Nike ad was also shot with the 5D, and he said that was really good to work with, so he felt the problem was solved. After his talk, he took out his iPhone and was showing before and after images from the Nike ad.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Canon 7D Firmware Update Version 1.0.9

Sooner than later...

Firmware Version 1.0.9 incorporates the following fixes.
  1. Improves AF accuracy during Live View shooting.
  2. Corrects a phenomenon where in rare instances, movie images shot by the camera may exhibit abnormal colors.
  3. Corrects a phenomenon that at certain timings, the shutter cannot be released when the camera's built-in flash or an external Speedlite is used for shooting.
Firmware Version 1.0.9 is for cameras with firmware up to version 1.0.8. If the camera's firmware is already version 1.0.9, it is not necessary to update the firmware.