2009 Awards…win a copy of FCP Power Skills from Larry Jordan

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You have got until the 15th December 2009 to tell us your Best Camcorder…HD SLR…Best Retailer…HD field monitor…Tripod…HD Archive solution…Best Gadget…Apple App for Video. Leave your list in the “comments tab” above and good luck.

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

8bit or 10bit that is the question

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Over the years there have been many, often heated debates over the differences between 8 bit and 10 bit codecs. This is my take on the situation, from the acquisition point of view.

The first thing to consider is that a 10 bit codec requires a 30% higher bitrate to achieve the same compression ratio as the equivalent 8 bit codec. So recording 10 bit needs bigger files for the same quality. The EBU recently evaluated several different 8 bit and 10 bit acquisition codecs and their conclusion was that for acquisition there was little to be gained by using any of the commonly available 10 bit codecs over 8 bit because of the data overheads.

My experience in post production has been that what limits what you can do with your footage, more than anything else is noise. If you have a noisy image and you start to push and pull it, the noise in the image tends to limit what you can get away with. If you take two recordings, one at a nominal 100Mb/s and another at say 50Mb/s you will be able to do more with the 100Mb/s material because there will be less noise. Encoding and compressing material introduces noise, often in the form of mosquito noise as well as general image blockiness. The more highly compressed the image the more noise and the more blockiness. It’s this noise and blockiness that will limit what you can do with your footage in post production, not whether it is 10 bit over 8 bit. If you have a 100Mb 10 bit HD compressed recording and comparable 100Mb 8 bit recording then you will be able to do more with the 8 bit recording because it will be in effect 30% less compressed which will give a reduction in noise.

Now if you have a 100Mb 8bit recording and a 130Mb 10 bit recording things are more evenly matched and possibly the 10 bit recording if it is from a very clean, noise free source will have a very small edge, but in reality all cameras produce some noise and it’s likely to be the camera noise that limits what you can do with the images so the 10 bit codec has little advantage for acquisition, if any.

I often hear people complaining about the codec they are using, siting that they are seeing banding across gradients such a white walls or the sky. Very often this is nothing to do with the codec. Very often it is being caused by the display they are using. Computers seem to be the worst culprits. Often you are taking an 8 bit YUV codec, crudely converting that to 8 bit RGB and then further converting it to 24 bit VGA or DVI which then gets converted back down to 16 bit by the monitor. It’s very often all these conversions between YUV and RGB that cause banding on the monitor and not the fact that you have shot at 8 bit.

There is certainly an advantage to be had by using 10 bit in post production for any renders, grading or effects. Once in the edit suite you can afford to use larger codecs running at higher bit rates. ProRes HQ or DNxHD at 185Mb/s or 220Mb/s are good choices but these often wouldn’t be practical as shooting codecs eating through memory cards at over 2Gb per minute. It should also be remembered that these are “I” frame only codecs so they are not as efficient as long GoP codecs. From my point of view I believe that to get something the equivalent of 8 bit Mpeg 2 at 50Mb/s you would need a 10 bit I frame codec running at over 160Mb/s. How do I work that out? Well if we consider that Mpeg 2 is 2.5x more efficient than I frame only then we get to 125Mb/s (50 x 2.5). Next we add the required 30% overhead for 10 bit (125 x 1.3) which gives 162.5Mb/s. This assumes the minimum long GoP efficiency of x2.5. Very often the long GoP advantage is closer to x3.

So I hope you can see that 8 bit still makes sense for acquisition. In the future as cameras get less noisy, storage gets cheaper and codecs get better the situation will change. Also if you are studio based and can record uncompressed 10 bit then why not? Do though consider how you are going to store your media in the long term and consider the overheads needed to throw large files over networks or even the extra time it takes to copy big files compared to small files.


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

Sailing against the tide…”HD Video versus the HD SLR”

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Isn’t it strange that I should be the “only” one supposedly sailing against the tide of let’s all go out and spend the best part of £3K on equipment to make film like movies, when I have actually got a 5Dmk11 but heaven forbid I bought this camera for photography not for filming with.

I produce corporate videos for a living so my best, most expensive piece of kit is strangely enough a Sony EX-3 camcorder, I am also a professional photographer and have the ability to switch kit now and again…recently I switched from a Nikon D3 to a Canon 5Dmk11.

What I am trying to tell you in a round about way is that I am of the older school although I am fully committed to digital…be it video or photography. It has taken almost two hard years to work out a workflow for my SxS card system all be it MxR card holders using SDHC cards. I was all for solid state…bring it on, till it arrived and scared the pants off me…no archive or should I say “not as we know it , Jim”. (One for the Trekies).

Two years later I am happy with my lot… then, we get all this talk about the saviour of the budget film industry…hooraah…we can all make films now all you need is an SLR that has been frigged to take HD video footage but again in a format that needs converting.

I have won the lottery I own such a camera, I too can make film like movies and maybe save a buck or two and get rid of the EX-3…………………..till I take stock.

I decided to test this phenomenon myself getting the odd tip from the master himself Philip Bloom, after all Phil seemed to have thrown away his expensive video kit and travel round the world filming solely with the Canon 5Dmk11 so their must be some mileage in this.

Sadly unlike Mr Bloom I have decided not to embrace my HD video 5Dmk11 and use it for it’s intention…a photographic camera.

I have tried very hard to see the benefits of using the HD SLR as a video camera but the negatives far outweigh the positives…it has taken me two years to be happy with tapeless and embrace HD as a format…as a video cameraman I am happier using equipment that is fit for purpose than to use a camera that gives me more problems than it solves.

HD SLRs are in my opinion a sad reflection of todays society who want everything in the one small package, a cost cutting exercise for both video and photography…spilt 50-50 down the middle…we all know what dilution does to any business.

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

Wobble Vision from an HD SLR near you

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Having shot the sum total of 45 minutes of Canon 5D mk11 footage to date I am increasingly getting put off by “Wobble Vision”. I then look at some of the “Masters” of HD SLR filming to see it’s not just me !

Wobble Vision is nothing short of the cameraman’s ability or should I say lack of ability to keep the camera steady whilst filming, this is partly due to the impractical design of the SLR itself, we are so used to having “Steady Shot” in our camcorders that it comes as a shock to see how unsteady we all are.

It’s not all down to the shakes, HD has a tendency to magnify mistakes and small detail which is why actresses hate HD productions because is shows up the smallest flaw in make up etc. Canon have IS lenses which means Image Stabilizer…this can dampen the shakes quite considerably but sadly the most popular “L” lenses used to date are the 24-70 f2.8 L lens and the 50 f1.2 L lens both are not image stabilized.

Canon would be better to have the IS in the camera but that takes away their lucrative extra cost IS lens market so for the mean time we are going to have to use monopods or tripods in order to stabilize those rogue shots…the alternative is to accept a drop in standards…again…and I don’t think that will be good for our trade.

Personally I think this is an expensive game… First it was let’s all buy video adaptors…before you all got sore backs…now it’s HD SLRs with their two plus points shallow DoF and the ability to film in low light…big wow…once Scarlet appears you will all be following the pied piper down that expensive road…mark my words.

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

Tiffen not playing ball with UK customers

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Tiffen-T1-IRI have seen various posts on US web sites about “how pleased” various cameramen are with their new 77mm IR filters for their Sony EX-1-3. I phoned our UK office to be told that the US market takes priority over the UK…………..THANKS TIFFEN.

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

Another side to owning a RED camera

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“What I really want to comment on though is not the Epic-X but the announcement that they’re continuing work on the 2/3″ Scarlet. In this new era of small cameras with big sensors, I simply do not understand the interest in this product. True it’s going to do A LOT more than a Canon 5D/7D or even your typical video camera at that price point but what are you going to put on it? A Fujinon ENG Zoom? Any regular 35mm format lens is going to crop x2.5 so even a very wide 18mm will become moderately telephoto. I’m super enthused about this big sensor revolution we’re living in and if someone can give me a reason to get excited by a 2/3″ RED camera, I’d love to hear it.”

Ben Cain…HD Cinema

Ben you are correct while I was taken by the sexy pictures coming out of RED HQ I was forgetting the practical side of using prime lenses on all this equipment but I think RED are banking on this so you will be forced to buy their prime lenses…at a price.

You may be able to afford the price for a basic “Scarlet” but don’t expect to add to it unless you have some deep pockets or maybe you want to shoot wildlife and the 2.5x crop will be more than suitable for your needs. PS. Lets hope RED unlike the video manufacturers give us a decent WA like an equivalent to a 24mm as part of their 8x standard lens.

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

2009 “So far this year” A wee reminder

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

HD Warrior 2009 Awards Competition

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

RED DSMC “EPIC Shoulder”

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

Working with XDCAM EX material by Alister Chapman

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So you go on a shoot and start filling up you expensive memory cards, at some point you will have to start off loading your material onto something else. In the field this is likely to be hard drives of some sort. Backing up to a single hard drive should only be done as a last resort or for media that you don’t mind loosing. You have several options here, you could use Shotput Pro to backup to single or multiple drives. I really like shotput as you can use it to eliminate a lot of user errors. For a start shotput can be set to backup to multiple locations simultaneously from the source media. Then once it has made the copies and verified the copies it can, if you wish, format the card, ready for re-use. Allowing Shotput to format the media helps prevent human error. How? Well if I ever put a card in my camera and find it has footage on it, it means that card has not been backed up and verified by Shotput. This is better than backing up yourself as there is always the risk of a mix up between backed up and not backed up cards. The other way to backup with a computer is to use the Sony XDCAM EX Clip Browser. You should never use the windows explorer or Mac finder to backup your valuable media as there is no form of error checking. Clip Browser has built in error checking which is enabled under the preferences tab.

A further option is to use a dedicated backup device such as the NextoDi products or soon to be released Sony PXU-MS240 backup device. These are easier to use than taking a laptop into the field. The NextoDi devices can backup to 2 drives at once (full review of the NVS2500 comming soon) and the Sony device backs up to removable esata drive cartridges.

So what sort of hard drives should you use? Well I am currently using pairs of USB Western Digital “Elements” hard drives. Where possible I use 3.5″ drives as opposed to the smaller 2.5″ laptop type drives. These are low cost yet so far have proven to be reliable and of good quality. The larger 3.3″ drives should be more reliable, but they are bigger and bulkier and require mains power, so in the field I use the 2.5″ drives. By storing these drives at separate locations, one at home and one in the office, I have a very safe system. If my office were to burn down or get flooded, I would have a spare copy at home. Over time however these drive will fail so every couple of years I move my footage on to new, larger hard drives. Another hard drive option is to use G-Tech G-Raid drives. These units contain two separate hard drives and can be used in raid 1 mode so should one of the drives fail your data should be safe. The cost is similar to using a pair of drives and it’s certainly less fiddly than using pairs of drives but it doesn’t give the security of separate storage locations. If you are doing corporate videos then you could consider selling drives to your clients. The client then keeps the drive and as a result you are no longer responsible for it’s storage or safety, just like if the client kept your rushes tapes.

For longer term storage, again there are many options. I backup a lot of my material to BluRay discs. This is not a fast process, use high quality discs and you should be good for 20+ years. Another option is to backup to Sony Professional discs using a Sony PMW-U1 drive. This is a lot faster than most current BluRay burners and the discs are protected in a rugged caddy. Sony claim a life of 50 years for the discs so it is a very good long term storage solution. The new Sony PMW-350 and EX1R as well as the Convergent Design NanoFlash (next firmware release)  have shooting modes that allow footage to be saved on XDCAM discs (Sony Professional Discs) as video clips and not just data files. Using these modes you can put the discs in a player and play back the material directly.

A further long term storage solution is LTO tape. It seems strange to be going back to tape, but LTO4 tape is very reliable and widely supported. It’s not suited to applications where you need quick access to your footage, but is very good for long term security. A good compromise may be one copy on a hard drive as a working copy along with a backup on LTO for archive.

Raid Arrays can be used for long term storage, but even Raid arrays can fail. If the lookup table becomes corrupted it can be next to impossible to recover the data off the discs, so do be careful. Do remember however you store your footage try and be organised. Store your material in a sensible folder structure that will help you find your rushes quickly and easily. If you are out shooting for a day you may be generating a hundred or more files, do that day in, day out and you will generate thousands and thousands of files. Make sure you work out you clip naming and clip prefixes in such a way that you won’t get duplicate names and can find your footage quickly and simply.

And just one more reminder, always save the full file structure. In the case of XDCAM EX keep the full BPAV folder and all it’s contents, also don’t rename the BPAV folder. Even if you edit on a Mac and use the Sony Transfer Tool to make .mov files you should keep the BPAV folders as trying to edit the  .movs on a PC or AVID is a nightmare. If you have the original material you can easily work with it on any platform.


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

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