Part TWO…”Editing with HD”

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Apple intro to FCP6 By Philip Johnston
View in HD  Download 406p Version  Visit Philip Johnston’s ExposureRoom Videos Page

For some of you who may be new to Final Cut Pro here is an introduction from Apple themselves. Final Cut Pro 6 works best with a MacPro Intel chipset but it will work on lesser specification machines but I would not recommend this, personally. If you want to view HD footage onto a monitor you will need a I/O box like the Matrox MXO or an AJA io HD, there are other options but the Matrox and AJA are the most popular.

editing-filmMaking the transition from an SD timeline to an HD timeline only requires you to adjust some preferences in FCP and as in my case the AJA box has to be set up via software. I use 7200 SATA drives in 3 DP500 Sonnet cases giving me 15 drives plus 4 in the Mac itself. 

The main problems with HD is the fact that everything takes slightly longer to render, Motion a 3D graphics application is similar to ‘After Effects’ but I think it’s better. Motion 3 as it is officially known can give you some wonderful graphics but in 720 50P things get a little slower and rendering takes longer but you put up with it.

Final Cut Pro 6 on the other hand is fine with 720 50P using Apple ProRez but this means anything you bring into FCP must pass through the AJA first in order to transcode it to ProRez. 

Apple ProRes 422 brings powerful new capabilities to Final Cut Pro editors thanks to its outstanding technical characteristics.

Stunning HD Quality

Quality indistinguishable from the most pristine sources. Maintains superb quality even after multiple encoding/decoding generations.

Full-width 1920-by-1080 and 1280-by-720 resolution. Offers the highest visual detail possible in any HD format.

4:2:2 chroma sampling. Provides precise compositing and blending at sharp saturated-color boundaries.

10-bit sample depth. Preserves subtle gradients of 10-bit sources (sunsets, graphics, and the like) with no visible banding artifacts.

I frame–only encoding. Ensures consistent quality in every frame and no artifacts from complex motion.

Part THREE : HD Camcorders

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Part ONE…”Do you really need HD or are we all following the pied piper”

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hd-v-tv-v3Good question, I was more than happy with SD until I saw the pictures from an early Sony EX-1, the pictures blew me away…I HAD TO HAVE ONE. So now I have moved over to HD and all the extra expense…was it worth it ? 

Firstly lets look at your cliental (Note UK only)…

Are you being asked for HD… 98% say NO.

Does any of your clients have Blu-ray playback…99.9% say NO.

Would they pay extra for you using HD…99.9% say NO.

So where is the market for HD…In your head…sadly HD as yet is still a specialized market if you are going to make money with it.

The Emperors New Clothes comes to mind, look at that quality we must have it…at any cost !  

I like many others followed the posts in various forums like children following the pied piper… looking at, downloading frame grabs, interacting, posting, surfing, due dates for EX-1s, phoning suppliers, part exchanges, convincing myself this was going to make me my fortune, convince the wife we can afford it, new web site, HD this, HD that, future proofing…… EX-1 arrives…………………….1st job .. AAAARRRGGG no tape = no archive !

I had used tape for 25 years, it had built up a comfort zone never stopping to think what that ‘zone’ was until now…what am I going to do with this footage, it’s all on SxS cards that I need to re use. I had no choice but to copy the files onto 2 hard drives and hope for the best. I was the first hand up for getting rid of tape…drop out, crunching up in tape machines, video head tracking the list is endless…now that day had finally come I was regretting my anger towards good old tape….tape …the last linear bastion of a non linear  world. 

One thing about computers that has a negative comfort zone is hard drives…if you use computers as much as I do you will come to treat hard drives with respect, as long as they are working…a drive that goes down on you can be catastrophic, so you can imagine my horror at having to use hard drives for archive purposes. 

I started using “Stickies” the Macs electronic version of the post-it note, that way I could keep a record of where things were stored. It sits on a spare Mac mini beside me in the edit suite which gets used for nothing but this purpose, now I use iMedia a far more dependable application purpose built for the job. It’s the one nightmare you have with memory card storage is keeping track of all your media.

18 months later…I have got used to editing 720 50P this is my preferred format as 85% of televisions are now LCD or Plasma and I hate the interlacing effect of 1080 50i.

Speaking of formats, this is a nightmare, you have got Mega Bit Rate (MBR), 100+ down to 3.6 (DV). Then you have 1080 50P (Not widely used) 1080 50i, 1080 25P, 720 50P, 1440 x  1080 HDV are you still with me.

The best quality would be 1080 50P but there are no fast refresh (25Hz or 50Hz) 1080p production or transmission formats in use, nor are there any looming in the near future — even on Blu-ray format. The bandwidth is barely there for 1080i channels, and it’s probably just as well, because most TVs wouldn’t support 1080p/50 anyway — they’d just convert those signals to 1080i or 720p before you saw them.

The 1280×720 progressive-scan HDTV format, which can be captured at full resolution using existing broadcast cameras and survives MPEG-2 compression better than 1080i, doesn’t make it to most HDTV screens without first being altered to 1080i or 720p in a set-top box or in the HDTV set itself. 

So to get back to my original question do we need HD ? The quick answer is no if your clients are happy with SD 720 x 576 the only person who will not be happy is your curious brain cell that tells you that YOU NEED HD QUALITY.

PART TWO…Editing with HD

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Matrox MXO2 v AJAioHD

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Matrox MXO2 vs. AJA IoHD

  1. Matrox MXO2 costs substantially less – $1,595 (£1125) vs. about $2,770 (£2500)
  2. Matrox MXO2 is truly portable – fits easily into a laptop bag, can run off a field battery, weighs 3 ½ lbs vs. 9 ½ lbs.
  3. Matrox MXO2 is road ready and rugged – built entirely on one circuit board, MXO2 is a robust design where as IoHD has many stacked circuit boards which can become loose over time.
  4. Matrox MXO2 provides direct surround sound monitoring – IoHD has only stereo RCA output for monitoring.
  5. Matrox MXO2 works with a variety of codecs, not just ProRes – there is no need to transcode your native XDCAM, P2, HDV, and DV footage, for example.
  6. Matrox MXO2 does not use the FW800 bus – the PCIe bus used by MXO2 provides higher bandwidth so you are not limited to just compressed workflows, you can work with all formats including uncompressed 10-bit HD. You also have the flexibility to use popular FireWire storage solutions with MXO2, even on towers.


When I was re-kiting for HD there was only one option, the AJA box, that cost me £2500 at the time and had a few bugs. Eighteen months later it’s still my mainstay I/O box when editing with Final Cut Pro.

matrox_max_logotypeI don’t like the fact that it uses the FW800 port and it clearly tells you that using other FW devices will impair the AJAs stability. I was very interested to see the MXO2 had a PCIe connection and comes with a PCIe card that fits into your Mac. I also like the fact that the MXO2 is not restricted to one codec PRO REZ. Creative video sell the MXO2 for £1125.  

A new Max version is also available with Matrox MAX technology for faster than realtime high definition H.264 file creation. I have to hand it to Matrox, if I was buying today I would plum for the MXO2 Max because you get a lot more for your money and save £1000 in doing so.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Using LED lights…all cameramen & women…a safety warning !

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I am big on Health and Safety, you become this way when you film H&S induction DVDs and film in hospitals as I do. The eye is a very sensitive organ and looking direct into LED lights is as bad as looking direct into the sun.

High intensity LED lights are in my opinion dangerous to use direct into a persons face, if nothing else they leave a terrible after image at the back of the retina which takes ages to go away. (Talking from first hand experience). 

I use LED lighting all the time but if you follow my advice you will not cause problems…

1. As they are heat free you can use stick on velcro at the back of the barn doors, then it’s a matter of applying spots of velcro onto sheets of diffuser and diffusing the light.

2. 1000W LED lights are great for bouncing light or you could attach a white foam board using simple clips and bounce the light if the roof is not white.

I can’t stress enough how bad LED video lighting is when directed into a persons face without diffusion, manufacturers should be aware of this and supply their lights with diffusion. If you have ever bought a hi intensity LED torch you will notice it comes with a warning not to shine direct into a persons eyes and that’s a warning for ONE LED not ONE THOUSAND LED’s !

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

For your Information

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mac-heavenI bought a faulty D500P Sonnet 5 bay eSata drive from this company 2 weeks ago. I have emailed them several times to get the following return post…



AllStuff Limited
The Counting House
High Street
HP23 5TE
United Kingdom

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Gekko Technology Ltd.

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“The Gekko design team is very proud to have been recognized again as we continue to innovate products for the film and television industry,” comments Managing Director David Amphlett. “Our new kedo luminaire gives lighting directors and camera crews the freedom to obtain focusable high-strength light in millions of colors from a single source. It eliminates the need for inefficient color filters. kedo uses our new kleer-color light engine, a single array high-power LED which can be tuned under software control to a wide range of different color temperatures.”

kedo-web1A focusable spotlight equivalent in output to a 1 kW Fresnel, Gekko’s kedo delivers precise color rendering across a wide range of operating temperatures and illumination levels. As well as primary and intermediate colors, kedo can accurately emulate a high-quality tungsten reference source. It can be switched quickly and easily to produce 2,900K, 3,200K, 4,300K, 5,600K and 6,500K, as well as a wide range of color gels.

Gekko Technology designs and manufactures LED lighting products for the global film, television and photographic industry. Gekko is committed to supporting users with innovative products, including unique functionality and the advantages of minimal weight, low power consumption and long life. High component quality and build quality are key drivers.

Gekko Technology products include kisslitelenslitekicklite and george.

Credits include Casino RoyaleQuantum of SolaceDeath Defying ActsMama MiaGolden Compass and television dramas including Waking the DeadNew Tricks and The Commander.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

iMedia is here…download a copy NOW !

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imedia-logo-v23After some tweaking, blood, sweat, tears and the odd tree…iMedia is finally here, now rather than blab on about it why not vist the link above called ‘iMedia’ and download a copy for yourself. At the moment it will only run on a Mac but that’s no great shakes as most video pros use Macs…don’t we. It will run on Tiger or Leopard and is Intel friendly.


How much will it cost…well that’s up to you as this is DONATION software, now can I start by saying in my opinion it’s at least worth a fiver that’s seven dollers for our USA friends and 49 rubles for our Russian friends.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Apple’s Final Cut Studio 3 or not !

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fcp-s2It’s been two years since the introduction of Final Cut Studio 2 and apart from some minor make overs Apple have become stagnant to say the least. One major topic that rides round the forums is Blu-ray support. Apple see Blu-ray as a thorn in it’s side but Adobe seems to be quite happy with Blu-ray by adding full support in CS4, Encore.

DVD Studio 4 is very dated in my opinion and really needs a make over. I use Photoshop like everyone else so having to learn Encore was no big deal, I am in no way a wizard with Encore but it’s tie in with Photoshop makes it very refreshing and a joy to use. 

blu-rayWhat Apple are not appreciating is that as more production companies start to use both applications the bigger the chance that there will be a larger migration to Adobe and that will inevitably  cost sales for FC Studio 3. Another major factor will be the inclusion of Blu-ray in DVD Studio 5, unless Apple bite the bullet I think they will loose their market share to Adobe.

Snow Leapord (SL) the new operating system will not be compatible with FC S2 that’s why we have not had an update because Apple are rewriting the code for FC S3 bringing together core elements and moving towards graphic card integration whereby rendering will be solely up to the level of graphics card and not the CPU as is present.

So in other words what you have at present will be redundant … now this might have been ‘cool’ for Apple in the past but a hard hitting recession, a buggy operating system, not to mention the financial implications will not in my opinion warm many hard core Apple fans to join the new revolution.

So lets see what’s on offer…

One new MacPro with Snow Leopard (4Gig Ram) = £2800

Graphics card = £1200

One FC Studio 3 = £800

Total £4800 not to mention the price to add CS4 for SL and all the other apps that you will need to buy again !

Apple must be off their heads if they think we are all going to jump over the edge into the unknown with new software that no matter how good it is will be buggy, new hardware costing £4K upwards…why not reformat the older MacPro I hear you shout…don’t be daft you will need a working system to get the work done so you don’t have that option.

Sorry Apple, I can’t see a solution to your impending implementation of a new OS that is so radical that we are forced to start all over again and spend a fortune, it just won’t happen. As usual Apple will have some form of solution…I hope, as for implementing Blu-ray into DVD Studio-5 that’s anyone’s guess, if not as they say in Glasgow “The games a bogey”.

For all your video production needs in Scotland, get in touch with Small Video Productions

Crumple Pop’s new “Polaroid” is free to existing customers

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CrumplePop Photo: Example Video


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Sony make XDCAM EX sample files available for download

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XDCAM EX – New generation HD Recording System

To allow potential customers to experience the exceptional video quality and ease of editing with XDCAM EX content, we’ve asked some leading freelance cameramen to provide us with sample footage which is freely available to download from a Sony ftp server. This footage is in its native MP4 format – taken directly from the camera with no post-production or other processing. 

If you’d shot this footage yourself, you could transfer it from the camcorder to your PC or Mac using free Sony software (see links on the right of this page). 

To download the sample footage, click on the below link. If you’re already logged in on, you will be taken to our Terms & Conditions for using the clips and, if you agree with these, you’ll be able to download the clips directly. If you haven’t yet registered with, you will be prompted to do so.

Download XDCAM EX clips (registration required)


Important information

All XDCAM EX clips are made available for testing purposes only and cannot be reused for any commercial purposes whatsoever.

“Sony are so switched on unlike other camera manufacturers who were emailed twice by myself to make files available for download. It’s a great way of determining if your NLE is up to scratch and allows the end user to evaluate the picture quality before buying a camcorder…well done Sony.”

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