Camcorder Design PART ONE “Where do they get their ideas from”

Categories: Miscellaneous 19 Comments

Before I start on my soap box can I just start by saying that I have not spoken to any camcorder designers in the making of this blog.

So to the burning question “Who decides on the specifications of a camera while its on the drawing board” ?  Its become patently obvious over the last year or so that those who design camcorders are not the same people who use or need them !

Lets have a look at Sony’s four large sensor camcorders to appear over the last fifteen months or so…

Here is the best of the bunch, the Sony PMW-F3 in action, now this camera is superb in low light, produces fantastic pictures but has two immediate failings…it only shoots 35Mbps onto SxS cards and the viewfinder is appalling.

WHO designed the F3, why was the decision taken to run the camera at HD news resolution (35Mbps) when the camera was clearly designed to take over from the likes of the 750 with 35mm adapter. This camera would have sold twice the amount had it produced 50Mbps from day one.

Secondly WHO designes a £15K camcorder with such an appalling viewfinder, forcing every camera operator to spend a further 1-2K on an external viewfinder like a Zacuto EVF or the Alphatron EVF.

This camera came out just over a year ago and still no sign of a 50Mbps model, anyone who uses the current camera in HD television production is forced to use an external HD recorder in order to achieve full HD TV specification which is why Sony have lost a ton of sales to the Canon C300 which I may add is far from perfect but does cut the 50Mbps mustard.

Den Lennie and Alister Chapman are the only two cameramen I know who have been in a pre production meeting with Sony engineers and the outcome was the NEX-FS100 which came out just under a year ago.

Even with two very accomplished cameramen giving Sony their ideas, they still managed to get it wrong…again…No ND filters, a compromised viewfinder/LCD design, no HD-SDI socket and only one media slot.

The FS100 which I personally owned for six months was a very good camera with an excellent quiet picture and a cinematic look to die for but you had to work twice as hard to get those dreamlike pictures with vari filters and external EVFs.

Den Lennie seen above loves his FS100 so much so that he compares it to a 16mm Bolex cinematic camera, “It’s the Bolex of today”.

My good friend Frank Glencairn filming with the FS700 the son of the FS100, this has to one of Sony’s best kept secrets but a strange move to update the FS100 in less than 8 months.

Sony by this time are haemorrhaging sales to the Canon C300 and need to bring out a stop gap camera hence the 250 frames per second super slow mo full HD FS700 with a 4K firmware updatable chip set.

Once again no dual media slot and a compromised viewfinder/LCD, as you can see above Frank does not even use the FS700s LCD.

Never seen a FS700 in the flesh so I can’t comment on picture quality but I have it in authority that its slightly noisier than the FS100 due to the 4K chip.

Here we have Sony’s large sensor (LS) camera number four the new NEX-EA50, finally a camera that looks like a traditional camcorder, this camera isn’t due till November 2012 but it is the first LS camcorder with a servo zoom “E” mount lens…fantastic.

A viewfinder/LCD that is in the correct position…fantastic.

Semi shoulder mount, dual XLR inputs, picture profiles, gain switch but Sony decide to down scale the chip from the preferred Super 35mm (FS100/700) to the APS-C as featured on the domestic Sony VG-20. We all know the EA50 is not aimed at the top end but it would it not be better to have as many sales as possible than restrict it to the event side of the business.

Sony also decide to omit ND filters which has been proven by many a cameraman/woman to be almost critical in achieving a shallow depth of field in bright filming conditions.

You see my dilemma, Sony for some reason keep compromising their large sensor cameras when they now have plenty of feedback from blogs like this who keep telling them where they are going wrong.

Why produce a camera like the EA50 and compromise it with an known sensor that produces moire patterning and worst of all totally ignore the professional video community by leaving off ND filters, yet again !

Sony are more than capable with cracking camcorders like the very popular PMW-500, the defacto HD camcorder for HD television documentary work running at the magical 50Mbps, this camera was produced on the back of the ever popular PMW-350 which I owned and loved.

So why on earth are we getting a string of LS camcorders that never reach the perfect PMW-500 Gold Standard, only Sony know this one, but you can be assured that we will see a 50Mbps F3 sometime soon and hopefully with a Hi-Rez viewfinder that swivels up and down as seen on the EA50.

Panasonic (AF101) and Canon (C300) are not much better but as Sony seem to be on a large sensor roll they are the easiest of all three companies to compare with the fourth model on its way.

So if you are a large sensor camcorder designer who just happens to live in Japan…stop producing cameras that just fall short of perfect, all you do is compromise your manufacturers ability to make plenty of Yen or worse still, hand over plenty of Yen to a competitor !…listen to us…the people who use your design !!!

Professional people need professional tools to work with lets turn it on it’s head…I have now been appointed as the new IT specialist for Sony camera design, so lets start with a 14″ SVG display panel for all your CAD work and a PC with 2G ram, a basic graphics card with 50GB of hard drive space…now you start to see how constricting our side of the fence is when it comes to LS video cameras.

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

Sony NEX-EA50 “First Look”

Categories: Miscellaneous 9 Comments

 

Another large sensor camera from Sony in fact it’s the 3rd NEX camcorder with a style more like a video camera and less like a square squat box.

I really like this design, especially the positioning of the viewfinder, for once we get a large sensor camera that’s not built to look like a DSLR, in fact with a servo zoom lens and semi shoulder mount it’s getting back to a look and ergonomics that “true” professional cameramen/women prefer.

Does it have any ND filters well the official line from Sony is “zero so far” and what about -3, -6dB, Sony’s reply “zero so far”!

I tried all day Friday to get an answer to this burning question but from looking at the camera from 3 sides it looks like no ND filters !

I just do not understand Sony they swing from one end of the design spectrum to the other, they were slated for designing the FS100 with no ND filters and eventually update that camera with the FS700, now we get the EA50 and the same old story…no ND filters to be seen which is a critical design flaw in a shallow depth of field camcorder.

The APS-C (23.6 x 15.8) CMOS chip is the same one used in the VG20 and the VG10, I did an early review of the VG10 which was never finished but the picture quality was stunning and had a creamy shallow depth of field (SDoF). The downside to the VG10 was it’s moire patterning which showed itself on filming tiles on the roof of a shopping centre so don’t expect the EA50 to be free from some aliasing.

Included : Sound will be LPCM or AC3, PAL & NTSC switchable, 16MP still image, various choices of media with one slot plus the 128G FMU module, picture profiles, Colour bars, 6 assign buttons, same 921K LCD as the FS100, Simultaneous record, GPS function and HDMI.

Not got : Slow & quick record, Smooth slow record, 2nd media slot, ND filters, HD SDI socket.

The EA50 will record at 1080 50p, 50i and 25p with NTSC 1080 59.94p, 59.94i, 29.97p and 23.98p. 720 50p and 59.94p and SD on 576/480 50i and 59.94i.

Sony’s argument will be “value for money” it’s still far better specified than an APS-C DSLR and pulls in the same image quality with interchangeable lenses and XLR sound feeds.

Finally having a powered zoom is a great addition for a large sensor camera and this lens 18-200mm will work on an FS100/700 as the lens also has a zoom lever and speed control on the lens itself.

Sony don’t give up when it comes to exploiting their own “Memory Stick” and this time round we are getting “mirroring” which means you can record the same footage twice onto the one card giving you a backup on the one card, very clever but at what cost.

Memory stick (MS) was a Sony invention but soon lost favour to the far cheaper SDHC cards and Sony themselves conceded three years ago by introducing a dual media slot that takes MS and SDHC, without this dramatic turn around Sony would have lost major sales and may have even gone out of business.

If Sony want to sell this new XC HG Duo it better come at a comparable price to SDHC cards but the line will be it’s two for the price of one.

My take is you get what you pay for, this camera is an entry level large sensor camcorder clearly aimed at the event market, wedding videographers will be especially keen to see this camera. Sony Professional are trying too hard to please “everyone” these days, we now have four large sensor camcorders from the EA50 to the F3 and every single large sensor camera due to bad design and lack of thought for the end user is flawed…but then again their competitors are not much better.
The Sony NEX EA50 will have it’s fans, a growing pre order list proves that, the servo assisted zoom is much needed and will certainly help sales, the camera body design is also much better and is more what camera operators are comfortable with, lack of ND is questionable but with a good vari ND filter this camera will produce fantastic SDoF pictures.

This camera will find its way into weddings, corporate, education and low budget documentary work without a doubt and if Sony have any sense take version two of the EA50 up a grade with ND and Super 35mm chip.

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

The NEW Sony NEX-EA50 (£3000)

Categories: Miscellaneous 19 Comments

Sony is pleased to unveil the latest addition to the professional NXCAM range of camcorders, the NEX-EA50EH. This versatile new camcorder offers the ultimate flexibility in lens selection thanks to its interchangeable E-mount lens system.

The large format Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor gives the user creative freedom when shooting Full HD movies and high-quality still photos. The new form factor enables users to shoot in a way that suits them best, allowing them to switch quickly between handheld and shoulder configuration without the need for additional accessories.

“This all-in-one camcorder brings a new level of creativity to a wider range of professional users than ever before,” said Bill Drummond, Sony Europe. “It combines affordability and high performance with a range of versatile, professional features for many applications, including event production, budget movie making and corporate production.”

The Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor produces high quality, creative images with low noise and high sensitivity in low light conditions. It also enables 1080 progressive and interlace recording with 60/50Hz selection (50p/25p/50i or 60p/30p/24p/60i)*.

By capturing 16.1 megapixel still pictures with RAW format support, the camcorder offers higher picture quality and rich post-processing capabilities. In addition, the NEX-EA50EH has a built-in mechanical shutter to eliminate shutter-induced blur during long exposures while capturing still pictures.

The NEX-EA50EH incorporates the Sony E-mount interchangeable lens system, which enables auto focus, auto exposure and stabilisation during shooting. With its short flange back distance, it is possible to attach both established A-mount lenses via the LA-EA2 lens mount adapter, and an unrivalled choice of other brands lenses using third-party adapters.

 

The unique design of the NEX-EA50EH further adds to the camcorders versatility. When the shoulder pad is extended, the camcorder can be balanced on the shoulder giving added stability for longer shooting times. Alternatively, when the shoulder pad is returned to the original position, the camcorder becomes compact enough to use in various handheld styles allowing users to capture a wide variety of shots.

The NEX-EA50EH camcorder comes with the newly developed Power Zoom E-mount lens E PZ 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS SELP18200. It features auto focus, continuous variable iris and Optical Steady Shot image stabilisation with Active Mode, making it ideal for shooting moving images. It is electronically controlled by both the zoom rocker lever on the camcorder grip and top handle. Film-makers can achieve a constant zoom speed and smooth, slow zoom, both of which can be difficult to accomplish with manual zoom lenses. In addition, using fixed focal length lenses users can simulate a zoom effect using the smart digital zoom function, ensuring fast-paced shots are never missed.

The NEX-EA50EH features a range of professional functions usually associated with NXCAM camcorders, such as 2-channel XLR audio (the ECM-XM1 Shotgun microphone is included with the NEX-EA50H), Linear PCM audio, time code, user bit and built-in GPS.

 

In addition, Sony’s HXR-FMU128 flash memory unit can dock directly to the camcorder for recording an immediate backup. The camcorder is compatible with the new Mirroring Memory Stick (MS-PX64/32/16) which is the world’s first memory card featuring a “Mirroring” function. This enables the card to deliver high reliability and data security through a dual recording (mirroring) function. This new professional memory card will be available in 3 different capacities: 16GB; 32GB and 64GB.

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

Sony’s NEW baby arrives at 8am today

Categories: Miscellaneous No Comments

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

New Panasonic AG-AC90 (September 2012)

Categories: Miscellaneous 1 Comment

29.8mm Wide-Angle / High powered Zoom Lens
The high-powered 12x zoom lens includes a 29.8 mm (35 mm equivalent) wide-angle setting. When using the Intelligent 25x digital zoom, it achieves up to 25x seamless zooming. In addition, it also features 2x, 5x and 10x digital zoom function. Panasonic’s unique Nano Surface Coating minimizes ghosts and flaring, and a high speed, F1.5 brightness enables extremely clear image rendering. The built-in 5-axis Hybrid OIS (Optical Image Stabilizer) ensures stable handheld shooting.

High-Sensitivity BSI Type 3MOS Sensors
Three (RGB) backside illumination corresponding 1/4.7 type MOS image sensors have an effective pixel count of 2,190,000 pixels. This makes it possible to capture excellent images with high definition and superb color reproduction even in dimly lit locations. The image processing circuit, which is tuned for professional use, produces highly natural gradation and sharp detail.

Easy Operation with Triple Manual Rings and a High-Definition LCD monitor
The lens barrel is equipped with manual rings for focus, zoom and iris operation to enable the kind of speedy, intuitive camera work that is generally associated with interchangeable lenses. The 8.89 cm (3.5 inches) LCD monitor (touch panel), which stores easily inside the top front part of the handle, has approximately 1,150,000 dot resolution to enhance focusing, and includes focus assist, zebra, and color bar display functions. The LCD monitor rotates 270 degrees for easy low-angle, high-angle, and self-interview shootings.

High-Quality Recording with AVCHD PS/PH Modes
•Professional AVCHD Modes: PS mode for Full-HD (1920 x 1080) and progressive (60p) image acquisition and high quality PH mode.
•HD/SD Multi-Formats: 
[60 Hz model]: 1080/60p, 60i, 30p, 24p, 480/60i.
[50 Hz model]: 1080/50p, 50i, 25p, 576/50i.
•Dual SD Card Slots (support SDXC/SDHC/SD Memory Cards). With two SD cards, a camera operator can select backup recording.
•Still shots with 3-megapixel resolution. (Still shots can also be captured during video recording.)

Specifications Supporting Professional Use
•2 channel XLR audio inputs (MIC/LINE/+48V selectable).
•Audio CH1/CH2 with individual level controls and input selection.
•HDMI output, AV Multi output (D-connector, composite video and audio 2 channel), USB connector.
•Remote terminals enable remote operation of iris, focus, zoom and Rec Start/Stop functions.
•The upper part of the handle grip contains both the Rec Start/Stop button and a zoom speed control (three speed steps) for the lens.

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

Buying a Sony PMW-200 (Updated)

Categories: Miscellaneous 7 Comments

There are a few things that you need to weigh up if you are buying one of the new Sony PMW-200s.

Firstly you will need to decide on the type of media you are going to use with the PMW-200, SxS card, XQD card, SDHC card or external recorder.

Please remember that the PMW-EX30 SxS player/recorder will not playback footage shot at 50Mbps so in order to get your 4:2:2 50Mbps footage into your computer you will need a Sony SBAC-US10 SxS card reader (£318) or the Sonnett QIO-E34 (£797) or the camera itself.

Shooting 50Mbps constant bit rate (CBR) you will be restricted to two types of card, the SxS or the XQD card with adapter.

A 32G SxS card will cost you £360 while an XQD card will set you back £170 plus £50 for the adapter.

No one has tested the durability of the XQD card yet but spec wise its up there with the best CF cards that we use in the likes of the Canon C300.

Sony would have been very nieve not to offer us a cheaper alternative to the SxS card as the track record proves that very few of us ever bought SxS cards while using EX1s and EX3s.

The XQD is the PMW-200s saving grace when it comes to 50Mbps and I can only predict an upsurge of XQD card sales this coming Autumn.

It has been pointed out that Sony advise using the XQD card for emergencies only at 50MB/s but the card is more that capable at 125MB/s that’s almost twice the speed of a 600x Lexar CF card, so who’s kidding who !

XQD cards are still 2x dearer than 32G top of the range CF cards so Mr Sony better be kidding if he thinks the XQD card is not up to scratch when Mr Canon runs his 50MB/s C300 CF cards at half the cost and half the speed !

The Sony MRW-E80 XQD card reader is only £35 and is readily available from good Sony stockists.

If you don’t need the 50Mbps you can stick with the 35Mbps variable bit rate (VBR) which uses the lesser SDHC cards with adapter.

This has long been the preferred method of capturing good 35Mbps footage from the EX range of camcorders, the Sony adapter will set you back £70 while the MxM card adapter will set you back about £45.

As you can see there are many options for capturing footage on your Sony PMW-200 not to mention the external recorder out of the HD-SDI socket or the HDMI socket.

Sony have hit a nerve with this spec of camera, there are a lot of pre orders not to mention a lot of interest in general now that Sony have realised the market for a 50Mbps, 3 chip, 1/2″ CMOS sensor camera like the PMW-200.

 

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

Philip Bloom and Team GB

Categories: Miscellaneous 6 Comments

 

Philip Bloom was hired by Adidas UK to produce a viral internet video and looking at breakfast TV this morning viral it has gone.

Philip used 2 crews both filming with Canon C300s.

Philip Bloom “Before I head off to LA to shoot a short fiction film next week, this was supposed to be my editing week, working on Olly Knights from Turin Brakes’ Documentary  and cutting the music video we shot on Tuesday for his debut solo single “If Not Now When” on the 1DX  (couple of frame grabs above) when a job I couldn’t turn down popped up….make a viral video for Adidas UK with lots of the medal winners from Team GB miming to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.”The concept was born out of the amazing performance of Team GB during the 2012 Olympics, and I was hired on Thursday evening with the shoot scheduled for Friday/ Saturday and a Sunday morning delivery – very full on! Adidas UK secured the rights to the song from the band, and all we had to do was make it!”

You can read the rest here…

http://philipbloom.net/2012/08/12/teamgb/

adidas | Team GB Don’t Stop Me Now from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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

Mountain Lion seems to solve a few NLE problems except FCP-7

Categories: Miscellaneous 2 Comments

My friend Alister Chapman has found Mountain Lion (ML) has solved a few problems he has been having with Premiere Pro CS6.

Alister Chapman “I’ve been getting quite frustrated with Adobe Premiere CS6 on my mac. It kept crashing and playback wasn’t as smooth as it is with Final Cut. Last week I upgrade my MacBook to Mountain Lion and noticed a small but noticeable improvement to the systems responsiveness. Today, while working on an edit and getting fed up with it crashing (something I’m really not used to on a Mac) out of frustration I decided to upgrade the OS to Mountain Lion.

Wow, I wish I had done this earlier. What a difference. Clips play back smoothly, the system is more responsive and so far it has not yet crashed. So if your using Premiere CS6 and you are having issues I recommend you upgrade to Mountain Lion.”

www.xdcam-user.com

I decided after reading this to install my second copy of ML onto my NLE which hosts FCPX and Premiere Pro CS6, before install, FCPX was adjusting the gamma making all my shots lighter but after installing Mountain Lion the gamma has returned to normal so not only has the new OSX resolved issues with Premiere Pro CS6 but has also added to FCPX as well !

Sadly its not all good news, do not install Mountain Lion if you need to work with FCP-7. Boris has a plugin called BCC shaders that cause FCP-7 to crash so I do not recumbent installing Mountain Lion if you need FCP-7.

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

Intensity Pro from Black Magic Design “It’s not always the dearest that solves your problems” UPDATED

Categories: Miscellaneous 1 Comment

Black magic design  is one of those companies that beavers away in the background bringing quality to the masses at an affordable price bracket, take their new large sensor camera priced at around £1,912 a fantastic price for a 2.5K cinematic camera and lots of pre orders to boot !

As you will know if you have been reading my blog that I am fed up with the likes of AJA and Matrox who give us great boxes like the io HD and the MX02 MAX but with one vital flaw…

1. AJA io HD (£2300) is not compatible with FCPX and only works with FCP-7

2. Matrox MX02 MAX (£900) is compatible with FCP-7, FCPX and Premiere Pro CS6 but not at the same time.

So I have two expensive boxes that in AJAs case is only useful with FCP-7 and runs via fire wire 800 and Matrox MX02 MAX that only runs with one NLE at a time and as yet not Mountain Lion compatible with Premiere Pro CS6.

Today I had a talk with my good friend Norrie who has been using a Black Magic Intensity Pro for a few months now and thinks its the business !

The Intensity Pro costs £130 yet is compatible with FCPX, Premiere Pro CS6, AVIDs Media Composer 6 and Sony Vegas Pro all from the same set of drivers and the best news is yet to come…

A software package for importing your footage from analogue or digital called “Media Express” this is the answer to the lack of tape importing that FCPX fails to deliver. Now I have a one stop media shop on my Mac Pro that delivers 4:2:2 HDMI HD footage onto my monitor and no more messing about with drivers and uninstalls when I switch from FCPX to Premiere Pro and the best news is that Black Magic are so customer consious that they have Mountain Lion drivers out already.

UPDATE : Having reluctantly uninstalled the Matrox MX02 MAX and installing the Intensity Pro here are my findings.

1. It does indeed playback FCPX and Premiere Pro CS6 from the same set of drivers.

2. FCPX does not play smoothly and thats only set to 720 50p, I assume it’s a bug that 10.0.5 has introduced thought I do await for BM to get back to me.

3. Premiere Pro CS6 plays back flawlessly.

4. Media Express works a treat and is the answer to the missing ingest module that no longer comes with FCPX.

Conclusion : Black Magic Design have not only brought out a multi platform monitor but ingest tool as well for £130. Both Matrox and AJA should be ashamed of themselves, if Black Magic can monitor up to 5 programs including Photoshop it’s a damed disgrace we have to put up with poor hardware like the MX02 and ioHD that quite frankly DO NOT CUT THE MUSTARD.

Sloppy design both from AJA and Matrox make these products almost useless in todays multi faceted NLE’s, we need choices, till we see what Apple have done to the new version of FCPX due out this month I for one cannot use FCPX on any long form edit, just yet but I will be interested to hear what my friend Rick Young has to say on the matter as he is producing a documentary with 50 hours of footage on FCPX as I type !

 

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

SONY NX-70 “Problems reading SDHC cards”

Categories: Miscellaneous 2 Comments

It has been reported to me that a fellow professional has had problems with his Sony NX-70 reading SDHC cards.

The error code is C:13:01 or C:13.06 both error codes indicate an error reading the SDHC card and no matter what make of card you use the error wont go away. This potentially serious problem only surfaced recently after the chap installed the new firmware which allows operators to record onto both card and internal memory.

Fortunately this reading error does not affect the internal memory so you can still use your NX-70 till you get a break long enough to send it back to Sony using your 2 years Prime Support, no NX-70 is out side the 2 year warranty, yet.

There are a few tricks to try if you do come across this problem…

1. Clean the gold contacts on the card and try re-inserting the card.

2. Re-insert the card about 5 times in succession.

3. Wiggle the card while its in place to see if you can re-ingage the loose contact.

If all else fails send it back to Sony for repair under warranty.

 

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

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