What Format will come out on top !

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Once again Beta v VHS has raised it’s ugly head …this time it’s solid state…P2 v SxS. HD is now catching on in broadcast land and the BBC are specifying more programmes must be shot in HD now that’s fine, the BBC as usual are playing catch up with the independent producers like myself who have been producing HD programmes for over two years now.

The main criteria for all broadcast HD work is 4:2:2 50Mbs minimum spec. camcorders like the new Canon XF305. Canon have caught many other manufacturers snoozing with their astute marketing plan, these camcorders are game changers and the BBC are in the process of buying well over fifty of these Canon camcorders alone.

The Canon’s will be good for fly on the wall, inserts into children’s programmes etc. but most serious DPs are not going to give this camcorder a second glance…so whats the options ?

Surprisingly, there seems to be a two horse race between Sony and Panasonic, both vying for the coveted broadcast market. We have two formats in the running…Panasonic P2 or Sony SxS. Once again Sony have been sleeping and have lost a lot of ground to Panasonic recently with Sky adopting P2 as their main solid state ingest for filming and editing. Taggert made by Scottish Television has recently moved over to P2 leaving the BBC with no clear road other than the new Canon camcorders.

Is it good to pin yourself to one format…good question and one as an independent producer I have already taken, SxS is my preferred option for one main reason…it’s far more flexible. I do not want a format that solely relies on P2 cards nor do I rely on SxS cards because Sony unwittingly allowed an independent producer of card adapters to produce the MxM card adapter (Now the MxR card) that takes easy to source SDHC cards.

You can always source SDHC cards but try getting P2 or SxS cards in the middle of Africa…not only that but SDHC cards are now so cheap you can use them as archive…everything you film on P2 has to be archived onto a server simply because you need the cards back in the pool for the next days shoot.

So why has Panasonic scored so big with Sky Television, Sky had to make a choice and to be fair Panasonic had a ready made 2/3″ solution with the now dated HPX500 camcorders and P2 players, Sony put a lot of time and effort into the optical disc which was not as popular as solid state.

Sony once again have come to the starting line with a product to knock your socks off the PMW-500 but it’s a few month too late, the 4:2:2 50Mbs SxS camcorder has all the right broadcast qualifications but the price is prohibitive at £20K plus lens and viewfinder. I have no doubt that if Sony had the PMW-500 twelve months ago Sky may not have gone P2.

During IBC 2010 in Amsterdam Panasonic announced the HPX3100 2/3″ P2 camcorder which is a tad less than Sony’s £20K and also less spec than the PMW-500 but it’s down to brass tacks these days and in the broadcast world every penny counts.

How does this help the independent producer who has HD programming to produce next year let alone the DPs who have to kit themselves out…well take a tip from me, wait a couple of months…Sony have come to the race late but I think we shall see some aggressive marketing and if I were Sony I would reduce the price of the 500 down to £16K with a viewfinder…let the DPs determine the future of solid state, if enough DPs buy into one format people like the BBC will have no option but to adopt the favoured independent HD format.

Speaking to a few DPs over the last two days we all came to the definitive answer and that is for the edit houses to make sure they can accommodate all card inputs from CF, SDHC to SxS and P2, one company supplies a unit that takes the most common cards used today including P2 and SxS…that’s the Qio MR from Sonnet.

Key Features

Replaces Multiple Card Readers—Comprehensive card compatibility with support for Sony® SxS™, CompactFlash®, Panasonic® P2, and SDXC™ cards (with included adapter)
Fast—Uses PCI Express® bus interface to deliver far superior performance over ordinary internal card readers with USB interface; aggregate bandwidth of 200 MB/sec.
Versatile—Supports a wide variety of ExpressCard®/34 and CardBus adapter cards, including Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, USB, FireWire®, and more
Built-In SATA Connections—Integrated, fast SATA host controller based on Tempo™ SATA E4P with four eSATA ports supports SATA drive enclosures with up to 20 drives total

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

Sony NEX-VG10 “Problem Solved”

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Something does not compute, up until today I have had nothing but fantastic quality from my Sony NEX-VG10 and I put that down to filming progressive till you read the Electronic manual and it clearly tells you that this camcorder films 1920 x 1080 50i and todays shots were indeed 1080 50i because they had the famous jaggies you only get with interlaced footage.

Yesterday (Friday) however my footage was jaggie free and looked progressive…now the only clue we get here is Sony’s strange reference to 720p in the AVCHD part of the manual. Why the need to mention 720p if the equipment does not record in 720p or does it ?

As yet I cannot account for my two distinctive qualities…one with and one without jaggies. I will update this post if I get an answer to this puzzle.

UPDATE…Note that like the SLD cameras, the 60 / 50i video is created from 30 / 25p sensor output.

Originally Posted: http://thetechjournal.com/electronics/sony-nex-vg10.xhtml#ixzz11ForQFi7

FURTHER UPDATE SOLVED…It seems what I am seeing is MOIRE due to the subject matter. I was not aware until I filmed roof tops over Edinburgh but this camera suffers from moire as can be clearly demonstrated on roof slates.

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

Sony NEX-VG10 lens comparison

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This is the lens that ships with the Sony NEX VG10 the 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 manual zoom lens. I find this lens very useful indeed it is definitely the right lens for the job, a very sharp lens I may add. The 200mm end gives you some stunning shallow depth of field shots. I can’t quite get away with the dynamic range of colours this camcorder produces from deep blacks to pillar box red to very true skin tones.

The camcorder records at full 1920 x 1080 25p this has been confusing me of late as Sony are very cagey about telling us what this camera records on, they even print 1080 50i on the box but the first pictures on the LCD tell you we are filming in progressive.

This is the “Pancake” 16mm f2.8 lens to be quite honest you are only loosing 1 stop between the 18-200 at f3.5 and 16mm at f2.8mm so we don’t get to see what it can achieve in true low light conditions. The optical qualities of the 16mm lens are as good as the 18-200. There is an “A” mount converter LA-EA1 which converts from the “E” mount to the “A” mount. You have a vast range of lenses for the Sony “A” mount system and some mega sexy f1.4 ZEISS T* lenses.

The 16mm E lens has the ability to be converted from 16mm to 10mm fisheye, now as you can see this is mega wide. My only observation is that it’s optical properties are not as good as leaving the 16mm without the converter but as a throw away shot in a wedding it would be fantastic.

During my mammoth corporate edit this week I had the occasion to need further footage of people walking in a town centre so I used the VG10 and the shots were converted from 1080 25p down to 720 50p and no one will be any the wiser plus the shots are very punchy indeed. I must thank Ian one of Preston Media customers who was very kind in bringing his NEX-5 lenses with him…16mm and WA converter.

I am warming to this camcorder the more I use it and I hope to film a video review at the beginning of the week for posting ASAP.

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

Panasonic HDC-SDT750 3D camcorder “First Play” £1,300

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Like the local bus route when you are not looking for a bus along comes two, this happened with the recent delivery from H Preston Media I not only got the long awaited Sony NEX-VG10 but also the Panasonic domestic 3D camcorder. My priority has been to review the VG10 then the 3D camcorder.

Yesterday I had a play with the 3D camera and I did not realise that you have to align the 3D part at the front, fortunately I only shot about 30s worth of footage to see it back to realise there was something seriously wrong with the 3D picture. It’s quite easy as it’s almost like registering a video tube camera…that’s something that was done regularly about 20 years ago.

Once you have aligned the 3D head the rest is child’s play…now you have to understand 2 important rules about filming 3D.

1. Everything is shot at the same focal length in other words you cant use the zoom as it is disabled so you are restricted to one wide shot.

2. 3D depends on the subject matter if you are going to achieve a good 3D image you have to think foreground…3D looks far more impressive if you show something in the foreground…that gives it depth.

The camcorder is childsplay beyond the initial 3D head setup. I filmed my dog walking friends this morning and we noticed a large amount of spiders webs due to the type of morning. It was a tad misty therefore causing all the invisible spiders webs to become visible. Watching the footage back I was stunned by the depth of the spiders web and when I filmed two together you could perceive one in front of the other, fantastic.

This one £1,300 domestic 3D camcorder from Panasonic will in my opinion make the 3D plasma a worth while investment. I have not had much time to look at the instruction book so far so I don’t know if you can copy the footage as non 3D footage or if you can burn a Blu-Ray that will playback 3D from a 3D Blu-Ray player.

I think this camcorder will spark the imagination of young families who want to impress their friends with the latest in technology, 3D like it or loth it is here to stay and that’s mainly thanks to the introduction of the affordable Panasonic HDC-SDT750 3D camcorder.

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

Z-Finder EVF from Zacuto ($775)

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

Sony NEX-VG10 “First Play”

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As I am working on a large corporate project at the moment I had little time to play with the Sony NEX-VG10…so I took it with me at lunchtime while walking the dog. My mother was a willing subject and as you can see from the screen grab above this little gem of a camcorder produces the business. Sony have made a slight error bringing this camcorder into the domestic marketplace as in my opinion it would be better suited as a semi Pro product.

The camcorder needs you to work at it, this is not a camcorder for filming happy snaps of the kids…remember we have no electronic zoom, the lens is completely manual.

One important point while I am here is that you will need to buy a mini HDMI to HDMI cable if you want to view your footage on an LCD/Plasma. The other major tip is to buy a Sony NP-FV100 battery as the extra weight helps balance the camera better.

I find the manual focusing great as long as your subject does not walk towards the camera but for great tracking shots you can’t beat the autofocus, word of warning, the autofocus is very good…once it locks on to a moving subject but it’s far from the fastest autofocus I have come across, it makes up for it’s tracking abilities but don’t rely on it for some quick zoom and focus shots.

The lens that comes with the VG10 is an 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 Sony lens, it seems on first outing a very sharp lens indeed and I have no qualms in using it for further projects. Because Sony have decided that this system is to rely on photographic lenses you do not have an electronic zoom so you are back to filming the old fashioned way…picking your shots, framing and filming…some of us may say it’s the only way to film !

The camcorder is a bit quirky as yet I do not see anyway to lock the exposure when you are in anything but manual exposure mode which I find strange.

The menu system relies on a thumbwheel built into the control side of the camcorder and I must say it’s a bit hit or miss…I do wish Sony would stop using this kind of navigation. Unlike the Sony MC50 camcorder this camera has an “ON” position at the record button and has a gain control, by pressing the GAIN button you have 0dB all the way through to 27dB plus AUTO GAIN. I am a big fan of 0dB and outdoors this setting keeps me happy knowing that I am keeping gain right out the picture.

There is one very stupidly placed button and thats the PHOTO button on the top of the handgrip inevitably when you go to change a setting and nothing happens it’s because your hand is resting on the PHOTO button which is badly placed right under the camcorders carry handle.

The camera takes very sharp 14MP photographs which just might be a bonus depending what you are filming, I would suggest that if you take this camera on holiday you would not have to take your digital camera as well.

This in my opinion is as far from a point and shoot camcorder as you can get and as I have said earlier I don’t know why Sony have placed this camcorder in the domestic camp. This is a specialised product and needs a fair bit of previous knowledge to make it happen especially as Sony are pitching it as a Shallow Depth of Field product. SDoF as you can see from my pictures above is what this camcorder majors on and as long as you get your head around the manual zoom and quirky menu system I am sure this will start to make in roads into the DSLR marketplace.

UPDATE :

Help ma boab as they say in the Broon’s would you credit it Sony have splashed out and given us a FREE windjammer which I did not notice till I started to read the instructions, let’s hope Sony professional are looking at this and start giving us free windjammers across all the range of new camcorders.

If Sony are working on the VG11 then please re-position the PHOTO button, take out the PUSH part of the thumbwheel, it seems that we have no control of sound so manual pots should be added plus indication of levels in the LCD and an exposure lock as seen on the MC50.

This camcorder has been built for filming as it’s priority therefore lacks all the nasties seen with current DSLRs also it takes a great number of Sony E and A lenses though you need an adapter to use the A lenses.

I am hoping to film a full video review during the weekend and I will edit some footage to let you see how amazing this camera is also some of the boys on various forums want to know how good or bad the VG10s rolling shutter is, well I will be testing it against it’s arch enemy the Canon 5DMk11 !

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

H Preston Media has NEX-VG10s in stock for NEXT DAY delivery

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

First UK video review on the new Sony NEX-VG10 “Coming soon”

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

IDX Easy Steady Video Review (7.5m)

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[xr_video id="a0cd8198668f4c53b80930fb099f6810" size="md"]

I would like to start by thanking Robert Holland from IDX for taking the time and trouble to demonstrate how to setup and use the Easy Steady. Robert showed me how to balance the sled and thats no mean task though after a couple of tries I got the hang of it. The kit consists of a vest, sled, arm and multipurpose stand and some allan keys. The vest comes in various sizes and if buying a kit you will be fitted for the vest that fits your build.

You see steady systems like this used regularly on Sky Sports, especially live football matches and I can assure you I have a great admiration for the cameramen who adorne such vests with broadcast cameras twice the weight of the EX-1 I was using.

This is a specialist area of camerawork and many have accomplished their skills using Steadycam units. Easy Steady is a system made in Italy and in my opinion just as good in both quality and workmanship as any steady system. It’s a knack, you have to spend time getting to know your partner.

In fact the Easy Steady is a combination of two half’s, the first getting the camcorder balanced to a nat’s whisker, the second is how you move around with the unit strapped onto your torso. The moving about is a bit like dancing although more like Michael Jacksons “Moon Walking” you need to learn to slink along with your camcorder rather than the conventional walking motion.

As you can see I started off wobbly as expected and with time got to level two…never hoping to reach level five after two days training, but it looks the business and if you become accomplished could hire yourself out for various productions.

If you would like to learn more or buy an Easy Steady contact Robert Holland at www.idx-europe.co.uk

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

Sony’s Mystery FilmLike Camcorder “Re visiting the Sony Press Picture”

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So what do we know about Sony’s Mystery FilmLike camcorder, firstly it’s due in all it’s full glory about February 2011 that’s when we shall get specifications and the all illusive pricing. In fact that’s a good place to start during IBC we were getting pricing from $50,000 to £6,000 and various flavours in between. If we just take a minute to look round the camera I think we can see some telling give aways as to the cameras price…

So lets look at what we know…we have a PL mount for prime lenses but strangely Sony seem to have given this camera a TWO position ND switch…not very useful or what you would expect from a HI-end full frame camcorder. The domestic viewfinder stuck on the handle does not inspire confidence that we are getting a top end camera.

A lot of what we are seeing is from the £4K end of Sony’s range of camcorders, shutter, gain, WB and 2 channels of audio this leads me to suggest we are getting a camcorder that is far from Hi-end, there was a video playing beside the camcorder that produced nice clean noiseless pictures so what do I conclude from what we know and what we can see ourselves.

I am aware that we are looking at a 35mm motion sensor rather than the 4/3″ sensor as seen in the Panasonic AF101, which is good news for those of you craving the 35mm motion sensor but everything else smacks of £4K pro features as seen on an NX5 for example the rest of the camera does not match the feature set of a $50K FilmLike camera.

Talking of 35mm sensors I had a humbling experience on DVX USER during the week as I was banging on about 35mm sensors, full frame and APS-C lenses getting completely mixed up till I saw the light…35mm Full Frame photographic sensors are the reason most footage is produced on the Canon 5DMk11 as this is by far the biggest sensor and produces amazing footage but with all the nasties that come with it. The new Panasonic AG AF101 uses a Four Thirds sensor which is a lot smaller than the 35mm Full Frame sensor but does not suffer any of the problems inherent with the DSLR. Sony’s new FilmLike camera by all accounts uses the 35mm motion sensor now as you can see it is a lot bigger than the Panasonic sensor which is why we are seeing very noiseless, punchy footage.

There is nothing to indicate the format being used with this camcorder but at a guess I think it will be SDHC nor what bit rate but if they are going to catch the eye of the broadcaster then 50Mbs would be helpful. Like the Panasonic I am sure it will have multi frame rates with everything from 1080 50i to 720 50p once again I doubt we are going to get the holy grail of 1080 50p.

I have already predicted the price of this FilmLike camcorder at £6,000 and re visiting the press picture I don’t think I am that far away. Don’t get me wrong if Sony bring out a Cinematography camera at £6K or less Panasonic will have a race on their hands but lets not kid ourselves the starting block is during December when Panasonic ship the first of their AF101 cameras and Sony even at a February announcement won’t start shipping till at least May 2011 giving Panasonic a clear five months head start, but if the Sony has indeed got a 35mm motion sensor maybe that extra five months might just be worth the wait.

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