Panasonics Jan Crittenden talks about the new Panasonic camcorders

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Jan Crittenden discusses Panasonic’s camera announcements at NAB 2011.

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Panasonic AG-HPX250 P2 camcorder

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Panasonic Solutions Company today sets a new standard for video quality in mobile HD acquisition with the introduction of the AG-HPX250, a P2 HD handheld camcorder with 10-bit, 4:2:2 independent-frame, full 1920 x 1080 resolution AVC-Intra recording.

“The AVC-Intra codec is highly prized for the stunning, master-quality 10-bit, 4:2:2 sampled, independent frame images it produces,” said Joseph Facchini, Vice President of Sales and Product Management, Panasonic Solutions Company. ”Now for the first time with the HPX250, Panasonic offers an ultra-portable handheld camera with full-resolution, 10-bit, intra-frame recording in a one-piece unit without the need for an add-on recorder. This is an unprecedented level of image quality in a lightweight camera.”

Weighing 5.5 pounds, the HPX250 incorporates high-sensitivity 1/3”, full-HD 2.2 megapixel 3-MOS imagers and a 20-bit Digital Signal Processor to acquire native 1920 x 1080 resolution images.
Offering a wide 28mm to 588mm (35mm equivalent) 21X HD lens with 3 independent adjustable rings, the HPX250 covers most shooting situations without the need for a wide-angle conversion lens. The 21X lens also features an Optical Image Stabilizer (O.I.S.) function that ensures stable images during shooting.

The HPX250 offers variable frame rate capability in 1080p up to 30fps as well as 720p up to 60fps for undercranking/overcranking to create fast or slow-motion effects.

 

In addition to AVC-Intra 100/50 recording, the HPX250 records in DVCPRO HD, as well as standard definition recording in DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV. The HPX250 supports international HD and SD standards, an added benefit to producers with global clients. In AVC-Intra 100/50 and DVCPRO HD, it records in 1080 at 59.94i, 29.97pN, 23.98pN, 50i and 25pN and in 720p at 23.98pN, 29.97pN, 59.94p, 50p and 25pN. In DVCPRO50/25 and DV, it records in 480 at 59.94i, 29.97p, 23.98p, 23.98pA, and in 576 at 50i and 25p over 50i.
The HPX250 offers Genlock/timecode input for multi-camera operation, as well as an HD-SDI output, an HDMI output, and an IEEE 1394 in/out. The camcorder is equipped with a Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS)* function to help compensate for wide variations in lighting, a waveform monitor and vector scope display, and two focus assist functions – a picture expanding function and a focus bar.

Equipped with two P2 card slots, the HPX250 can record for up to 320 minutes in AVC-Intra 100 at 720/24pN, 160 minutes in AVC-Intra 100 1080/24pN and 128 minutes in other AVC-Intra 100 or DVCPRO HD formats on two 64GB cards. In AVC-Intra 50, the recording time is twice that as AVC-Intra 100.

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Sony F65 4K

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NEW from NAB the Sony F65

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The F65 is a top-end motion picture camera. It features a true step-change in sensor technology, using a 20.4 Mega pixel CMOS sensor and a unique Double Bayer pixel orientation for full green resolution. The F65 runs up to 120Fps, creates HD/2K or genuine 4K resolution (4 times HD) images with a wide colour gamut, excellent dynamic range, and high sensitivity.

A dockable SRMemory recorder attaches to the camera to record directly on to an SRMemory card of 256 GB, 512 GB or 1TB capacity with data security at 5 Gbps.

Super 35mm CMOS sensor with 20.4 Mega pixels

The F65 features superb image quality in HD/2K and True 4K. A unique Double Bayer pixel orientation with double the number of green pixels to red or blue pixels makes the camera especially sensitive and ideal for visual effects and green screen work. There is a choice of format composition as required, including 1.85:1, 1.78:1, 1.66:1, 1.33:1, 2.35 spherical, 1.3x anamorphic, or 2x anamorphic cropped. The F65 has a wider dynamic range, better S/N ratio and higher sensitivity than the F35 camera. It offers filmic colour reproduction with a wide colour gamut.

Compact and light-weight

Smaller and lighter than the F35, the F65 allows for even easier handling for applications such as Steadicam.

Records on to SRMemory with dockable SR-R4 SRMASTER Portable Recorder

The SR-R4 is a 4K recording system specifically designed for Sony’s new top-of-the-line F65 cinematography camera. It takes full advantage of the ultra high-speed SRMemory platform to record super-rich RAW data from the F65 at speeds as fast as 5 Gbps.

SRMemory is unique – nothing can match its combination of capacity, sustained data throughput, security and portability. It opens up completely new ways for end-users to work. With huge transfer speeds up to 5 Gbps, SRMemory media also has massive capacity up to 1TB for long recording times.

Wide range of interfaces for on-set workflow

The F65 provides 16bit RAW output (19Gbps) compressed to 5Gbps for recording onto SRMemory in the dockable SR-R4. Other interfaces include HD-SDI and HD viewfinder output with LUT, camera remote connector, LAN connecter and ARRI Lens IF.

Rotary shutter

The rotary shutter eliminates the rolling-shutter effect common to CMOS sensors.

Built-in ND Filters

Four Neutral Density Filters are built-in.

Render Module

The SR-R4 docks directly to the Sony Render Module, which performs real-time double de-bayering of 16 bit RAW data shot using the F65 camera. Provides signals in 4K: 444/422, 10/12bit, 24P to 60P. It can also produce 2K/HD ultra-high quality output from the down converted 4K original.

Records at up to 120 FPS

The camera features higher frame rate recording up to 120P, which is especially useful on productions such as commercials that require a slow motion effect.

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MTF NAB Exclusive for HD Warrior

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Mike Tapa from MTF has just sent HD Warrior this exclusive picture of his newly re-designed PL to E adapter that now takes Sony’s new F3 prime lenses. The great thing about this is the ability to buy an F3 with Sony’s three prime lenses and by using MTF’s PL to E adapter use the FS100 as a B camera.

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NAB 2011 “What to look out for at NAB”

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One of the most exciting additions to NAB will be the SuperMeet on Tuesday the 12th of April it will be the 10th Anniversary get together of the Final Cut Pro User Group Network in Las Vegas.

Larry Jordan…

“The ProVideo Coalition publishes a rumor that Apple is announcing the next version of Final Cut Pro at next week’s SuperMeet. Then, supplements it with lots of very interesting supporting quotes.

Frankly, I was stunned.

While all things are possible, there are many strange elements here. First, nothing is confirmed by anyone. I have sent emails to learn more, but there’s nothing official.

Second, as Rob Griffiths wrote on the IMUG mailing list: This seems “awfully heavy handed of Apple to kick all the other presenters out? Apple doesn’t have any trouble drawing a crowd. Why piss off so many vendors… that Apple has good relationships with… and put the SuperMeet folks in the awkward position of clearing the agenda a week before the show?”

Since I know the “Supermeet folks,” and understand what’s involved in putting together a show this massive, “awkward” does not begin to describe the position, and stress, they are in. This is a HUGE, last-minute, change in plans.

From my point of view, Apple has made a big deal of avoiding trade shows – especially NAB – because, as Rob points out, they can draw a crowd simply by standing on a street corner. I don’t see why they need to announce at the SuperMeet.

On the other hand, a lot of the folks they would like to reach will be there. And, as I’ve written before, whenever Apple announces the next version, what you see will be “jaw-dropping.”

Curiouser and curiouser…

I’m going to the SuperMeet next week – wouldn’t miss it, actually. And guaranteed that if anything is announced I’ll be covering it here in this blog, in my newsletter, and on our podcast – Digital Production Buzz.com. However, for now, I’m adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

UPDATE – 10 minutes later.

The SuperMeet Agenda has been changed to read: The Final Cut Pro User Group Network is excited to have a very special guest presentation at the 10th Annual Las Vegas FCPUG SuperMeet. Come to see a surprise sneak peek at something very special – you really do not want to miss this one !

Looks like that makes it official. Prepare to be stunned.”

So it looks like we will finally get to see Final Cut Pro 8 and all it’s 64bit glory this Tuesday, so what else is on offer..The new Super 35mm camcorder from Sony the FS100 will be shown for the first time, well worth a look and the Sony NX70 the professional spec MC50 will also be on the Sony stand.

Sony are also previewing a new 8K camcorder similar to the F35 which films in 4K mode a direct hit at RED, while I am on the subject RED will be showing their new EPIC camera which is being used to film Peter Jackson’s the Hobbit. The long awaited SCARLET will also be on show which will be a great crowd puller.

Zacuto will finally be showing their new range of Z-Finder EVF’s and will be the first time the public will have a chance to play with one first hand.

Canon will be showing off their new PL mount cinema zoom lenses…Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging, today introduced two advanced-design PL-mount lenses that address the emerging 4K production standards. Designated as the Canon FK14.5-60 wide-angle cine zoom and the Canon FK30-300 telephoto cine zoom, these precision-matched lenses incorporate breakthrough Canon optical designs that simultaneously optimize and enhance multiple imaging attributes while minimizing optical aberrations and distortions. Both lenses are also more compact and lightweight than contemporary PL-mount lenses and both feature a totally new Canon optical design that virtually eliminates focus breathing. As digital cinematography continues to accelerate for theatrical motion pictures, TV movies, episodic dramas, commercials, and other forms of digital high-resolution production, professionals will require the very best in performance and image quality. By already performing in accordance with emerging 4K production image format standards, both of the new Canon PL-mount cine zoom lenses inherently ensure the very highest performance in contemporary 2K and HD digital motion imaging.

Carl Zeiss will introduce a bundled lens set offer for its SLR lenses. The set contains these lenses with F (ZF.2) or EF bayonet (ZE): the Distagon T* 2,8/21, T* 2/28, the T* 2/35, Planar T* 1,4/50 and T* 1,4/85. These five lenses come in a special waterproof case and a special inlay ensures that each lens fits perfectly inside the suitcase and protects the lenses from shock and vibration. The SLR lens set will be offered at a recommended retail price of $6063 (€4562), excluding VAT, and will be available starting May…

NAB rumours…As usual we have some NAB rumours one of them being an update to the Panasonic AF101 which I would find very surprising as we have only had the AF101 since January this year and is selling like hot cakes. There might be a firmware upgrade or even some new features with a payable firmware upgrade.

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How to make the Sony FS100 …”SEXY”

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I was just about to extoll the virtues of adding a Zacuto Z-Finder EVF to your AF101 or F3 when I came across this picture of the new Sony FS100 kitted out in full battle gear and there is no doubt about it…it looks the part !

This set up takes away the semi Pro look of the camera and with the matte box gives you the ability to add ND filters in front of the lens.

 

The EVF Flip has a Z-Finder frame built into the unit that can be flipped open to 180 degrees. You can also pop off the Z-Finder and use the electronic viewfinder as a monitor similar to the EVF Snap. You can use the Z-Finder Pro or Jr. on this model as well. This is essential when working handheld with a producer or director so you can show him the shot without having to have him get his eye in the viewfinder. You just flip up and he can see the shot.

The Zacuto Pro…This is a complete electronic viewfinder with a diopter. It includes the EVF Flip model and an optical viewfinder, which will snap onto the frame on the monitor and can flip up 180 degrees. The optical viewfinder contains high quality 2.5x optics with anti-fog shields and a diopter. The anti-fog is extremely important for reducing fog. It will also include extender frames. The Z-Finder Extender Frames allow you to further adjust the focal point of the Z-Finder by semi-permanently stacking the frames via a snap fit on to the skirt of the Z-Finder until the LCD screen is in focus for you. If you want to be able to use your Z-Finder on your camera LCD screen, you will need to purchase the gorilla plate and frame separately. It is not included in this kit.

All electronic viewfinders include a standard hotshoe EVF mount, HDMI cable, rechargeable battery, battery charger, lens cloth and protection case. Additional mounts will be available for purchase; the mount needed will depend on your shooting needs.

A Zacuto rig on a Sony PMW-F3. If you are lucky enough to be going to NAB 2011 you can see the Zacuto EVF in action along with all the various cameras and rigs. The one thing that I really like about Zacuto’s EVF is the build quality and the standard size HDMI sockets, far more substantial.

 

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Video Review of the Sony PMW-F3

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[xr_video id=”88b90a1efa45400dac8f9b9c408ad293″ size=”md”]

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Sony’s HDCAM SR tape in short supply

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The fallout from the devastation in Japan continues to reverberate throughout the professional production industry, and there’s now confirmation from Sony that its Sendai Technology Center in Tagaiyo (Miyagi Prefecture) was severely damaged in the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck near there.

The Sendai Sony plant was the only facility in the world capable of manufacturing most of Sony’s professional media products. Specific products impacted by the earthquake include HDCAM SR, HDCAM, DVCAM, Betacam SP, Digital Betacam, Betacam IMX, Betacam SX, XDCAM, SxS, DV and HDV. The facility also manufactured Li-Ion secondary batteries, magnetic tapes, IC cards, semiconductor lasers and conventional CDs and DVDs.

SR technology is particularly precise (with its 4:4:4 signal processing), and it may be sometime before manufacturing can begin at another facility. As a result of the loss of the Sendai manufacturing facility, Sony is carefully allocating shipments to prevent hoarding.

It is predicted to be a three-month shortage of HDCAM SR tape, in particular, high-volume users who manage cash flow may have only a two-week supply on hand of HDCAM SR tape.

HDCAM SR cassettes had recently been priced from $50 for a 40-minute cassette to $220 for a 130-minute cassette. These prices will likely rise as a result of product availability.

This will drive more producers towards devices like the Gemini from Convergent Design, this solid state device can record 4:4:4 which could be a saving grace for many production companies who film with the Sony F35 including the BBC who are filming the most recent Dr Who with a Sony F35 camera.
The Gemini is not a cheap option at £6000 plus the price of your SSD media. As an example 1080 24p with two 512Gb of SSD will record 88minutes of full uncompressed 4:4:4.

A number of production and playout facilities have been discussing how to recycle and recertify their redundant HDCAM SR tapes to extend their current supply and have also accelerated efforts to move away from HDCAM SR-based archives and workflow to file-based workflow and archives using HDD-arrays, LTO tape libraries and other storage methods. Many expect short-term growth in the use of disk drives and digital tape archives as well as solid-state server storage in the broadcast and entertainment industry as a result of the shortage of HDCAM SR tapes.

Over in the USA there seems to be shortages already…Paul London “Here in the U.S. we are already in short supply. We are buying tapes (HD Cam) in ones and twos from LA, Ohio, Canada -anywhere we can get them. All Sony stock has gone and the same with Fuji. There are a few Maxell tapes here and there but not much. I usually pay $18 for a 6 minute HD Cam tape -they are going for as much as $70 now -if you can get them. Sony contacted all of the Canadian tape dealers today and asked them to return all HD Cam SR tapes to them asap for use in the movie industry. The word I heard is that the Sony factory will not be up and running until Sept 2011. One bit of bright news is that Maxell is increasing their pro tape production X3 but this will not hit the market until end of June (also they do not make HD Cam SR).”

Several reports said Sony is also facing trouble with plants in Koriyama, Motomiya, Kuki, Ibaraki, Kanuma, Tochigi and Atsugi because of power-outage issues. But, this situation is deemed short-termed, and Sony is expected to start production soon.

 

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DSLR v Video “Where are we now”

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Last year I predicted to the letter what would happen when the large sensor camcorders came along..

2010 “Sony have just brought out the new F3, due for January 2011 shipping, but not as popular as the AF101 if sales are anything to go by plus the need for expensive prime lenses, 35Mbs SxS, 4:2:0 and the £12K asking price. The Sony is a great camcorder and Philip Bloom is testing one as I blog but the lack of 3rd party adapters is a major turn off though MTF are in the process of producing a Nikon adapter for early 2011.

Lastly we cant predict the future without a mention of RED DIGITAL CINEMA, who are producing an Epic light and a Scarlet. I do think RED have an upward struggle to compete with Sony and Panasonic and the fact that Jim also mentioned a significant price increase to Scarlet, a camera thats not in major production yet and has a fixed 8x lens !

The clear winner of the SDoF large sensor camera during early 2011 is by far the Panasonic AF101, it ticks all the boxes, a mountain of 3rd party adapters and lenses and the price of £4K has set this camera into 2011 with it’s head held high and a fantastic sales curve that can only get bigger.

I hope with such quality now available to the professional FilmLike market we will no longer see DSLRs used because the technology is limited and lets be honest Canon have stood aside for over a year now knowing that moire patterning is a major problem and done nothing to remedy the fault. As professionals we owe it to the future of our industry to embrace the new professional shallow depth of field camcorders from Panasonic and Sony…after all we have shouted for long enough about having a camera fit for purpose and the video manufacturers have delivered…BIG TIME.”

So that was 2010 how are things shaping up today almost 4 months later and NAB 2011 biting at our heals, the DSLR is still a major contender amongst those who embraced the technology but there has been a large uptake of cameramen and women who sat on the DSLR sidelines now coming forward since the introduction of the Panasonic AF101 and the Sony F3.

Mike Tapa from MTF Services has been run off his feet over the last three months trying to keep up with orders for adapters, especially the PL and Nikon to mFT adapters.

The DSLR has made its mark in the last two years with some high profile programmes being made like “The Road to Coronation Street” filmed by DP Tim Palmer who has kitted himself out with a mean looking rig.

Tim “Ian Potts, head of technology at the BBC, has asked me to give a presentation to fellow directors of photography about the use of DSLRs on the BBC4 drama “The Road to Coronation Street”. This will take place at Pinewood on March 17th. It sounds like a fascinating day and there will be other DoPs and technicians discussing alternative camera and capture systems. See below for some framegrabs from the drama which aired in September 2010.”

 

“The camera was a Canon 5D Mk2 and Nikon prime lenses. The vast majority of the show was shot on two lenses – the 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4. The 35mm f2 and 135mm f2 had the occasional outing. The reason for this spartan choice of lenses is that because the camera is so small, even in tight spaces, one is able to get the camera far enough back to enable the use of slightly longer lenses on wide shots. Whereas under normal circumstances, due to the bulk and length of conventional HD cameras, the use of wider angle lenses becomes more necessary. As a result the pictures benefited from the reduced depth of field characteristics shown by full frame DSLRs.”

I emailed Tim and asked him the following question “Are you still using your 5D or are you considering something like a Sony F3.”

Tims reply “Yes I’m definitely considering the F3 now. The 5D has too many limitations unless it is used either in perfectly controlled conditions, so dolly and track, proper grip gear and camera accessories and a full crew OR completely uncontrolled i.e. shooting with abandon – no accessories just the bare camera in the hand basically being thrown around. Anywhere in between does not work.”

Although I am not a fan of using any DSLR for television work Tim and the team that graded the “Corrie drama” done a fine job and I accidentally happened to catch it and was very pleasantly surprised by the end result.

To bring you up to date on the DSLR, Canon or Nikon have still not fixed the moire or aliasing I assume we are to be treated to a large sensor video camera sometime this year from Canon at least which is why there is no urgency to solve the problem. Canon have given us the D60 which at last has a swivel viewfinder.

My own thoughts are that the DSLR will become less popular during 2011 in favour of the large sensor (LS) camcorders, this is already happening with major DPs now buying F3s and AF101s. Sony has a second LS camcorder due late summer the NEX-FS100 at about 50% less in price than the F3 but with the same Super 35mm sensor.

So what about companies like RED and ARRI who both have a share in the digital film market, all I can say is they both have their followers but there is no doubt about it Sony and Panasonic have given them a fright and I would say the F3 has taken sales from RED but it’s a big marketplace and as long as producers are spending the money DPs will taylor their kit towards their needs.

The DSLR has left it’s mark in history but it comes at a price…apart from the many limitations it was never made to do anything more than website news for photojournalists, the large sensor cameras like the F3, AF101 and the new FS100 are tools that are fit for purpose and come with that coveted shallow depth of field, when used with the right lenses.

The main winners of all these cameras are the lens makers themselves, even today they just can’t keep up with demand.

 


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