On the ferry to Amsterdam

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Saturday morning : Here I am on the way to IBC on the ferry Princess of Norway, take a tip from me do not book anything less than a Commodore cabin if you want decent facilities.

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The New Panasonic AG HMC81 (£2195+VAT)

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I had the pleasure of meeting an old pal Nigel Cliff from Holdan who distribute the new Panasonic AG-HMC81 camcorder. I had a play with the new camcorder, it was surprisingly good and looks a lot better in real life than the photographs I had seen of it. You get a lot of camera for your money, XLR plus phantom powering, HDMI output, full manual control of both channels of sound, the one thing that’s lacking is a gain switch. The gain is tied in with the exposure but we looked at some footage back and I kid you not 10dB of gain on a 50″ full HD television was as clean as a whistle.

This camcorder will be perfect for weddings, conferences and education.


A Tapeless Camera Recorder That Meets the Needs of Professional HD/SD Multi Format Recording. The  multi format AG-HMC81 records in both AVCHD (HD) and DV (SD) formats onto SD/SDHC memory card.

This tapeless camcorder features a 12x optical zoom lens, Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS), and a 1/4.1 inch, 3.05 mega pixel (approx. 2 mega pixel/effective image pixels), progressive 3MOS.

In HD mode, the AVCHD format has twice the compression efficiency of MPEG-2 for superb image quality.  Its exclusive PH mode allows exceptional quality recordings at a higher bit rate (max. 24 Mbps).  SD mode records AVI files using the popular DV compression method.  This file based system enables effective use of existing DV compatible nonlinear editing systems.

The AG-HMC81 also features a shoulder mount design that enables stable shooting, XLR audio input (with phantom microphone supprt), and a BNC component/composite image output terminal as standard equipment, for smooth compatibility with professional systems.


  • Stunning quality AVCHD recording to SDHC card at up to 1920 X 1080 50i or 25p
  • Standard Definition DV recording to SDHC card at 576 50i and 576 25p
  • User-assignable manual focus ring functions, for Focus/Iris/Zoom
  • XLR inputs with switches for mic/line, and +48V Phantom Power
  • Time code/UB recording
  • IEEE 1394 output in DV Mode
  • Pre-record – 3 seconds
  • Interval recording for time lapse
  • Shot marker and metadata capture
  • Wired remote control terminals for zoom, focus, iris, REC start/stop controls
  • 10 Megapixel Stills function
  • Three-year warranty program (One year + two year extension upon registration)

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New 50Mbs Canon handheld camcorders

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Once again Canon have pulled a further rabbit out of the hat with the BBC approved 50Mbs 4:2:2 handheld camcorder but lets be honest these camcorders may be to the BBCs specifications but most self respecting DPs are not going to buy one of these, this is to satisfy the BBC for internal use. This is not to say the pictures wont be good if the 300 range is anything to go by.


Canon announces the XF105 and XF100 Professional Camcorders for mobile HD video capture in a compact form factor. Canon’s smallest professional camcorders, the new XF105 and XF100 utilize the same Canon XF Codec featured in the Canon XF305 and XF300, introduced earlier this year. The Canon XF Codec is an MPEG-2 4:2:2 50Mbps codec used for exceptional high-definition image quality, full non-linear editing (NLE) systems compatibility and efficient, robust workflow.

These camcorders include in-camera features enabling the easy set-up and capture of high-definition 3-D video when two XF105 or XF100 camcorders are paired, as well as Canon’s built-in infrared low-light feature enabling the capture of HD video in complete darkness. Both models record to Compact Flash (CF) cards and feature hot-swappable card slots for maximum performance. Differentiating the two models are industry-standard HD-SDI output and genlock in/SMPTE time code (in/out) terminals available on the Canon XF105. The XF105 and XF100 camcorders are ideal for Electronic News Gathering, documentary and independent filmmaking and event videography.

“Whether used as a companion to the XF305 or XF300, or as a stand-alone camcorder, the XF105 and XF100 are geared for a wide range of applications where high image quality, extreme portability and efficient workflow are of the utmost importance. And with true stereoscopic 3-D production and infrared recording capabilities, they allow users to expand into new markets,” stated Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A., “This week we will be exhibiting both the Canon XF105 and XF100 at Canon EXPO 2010 in New York and demonstrate the versatile low-cost capabilities.”

The Canon XF105 and XF100 Professional Camcorders feature a Genuine Canon 10x HD Zoom lens which provides the mobility and optical performance required by the most demanding professionals. Each model includes a Canon developed and designed native Full HD 1920 x 1080 CMOS image sensor and the new Canon XF Codec for extreme color detail required for accurate chroma-keying, color-grading and compositing for digital filmmaking. For finer transitions in tone and color, 4:2:2 color sampling offers twice the color resolution of HDV and other 4:2:0 formats.

And to maximize compatability with existing industry infrastructure, video, audio and metadata are combined in an MXF (Material eXchange Format) File Wrapper, a widely supported open-source format. The Canon XF Codec is currently compatible with leading software programs widely used within the video production and broadcast industries including those available from Adobe, Apple, Avid, and Grass Valley.

To maximize the camcorders’ adaptability across various production environments, Canon has equipped each model with the ability to record at multiple bit rates, resolutions and variable frame rates for slow and fast motion.

50Mbps (CBR) — 4:2:2 — 1920 x1080 at 50i/25p/24p — 1280 x 720 at 50p/25p/24p
35Mbps (VBR) — 4:2:0 — 1920 x1080 at 50i/25p/24p — 1280 x 720 at 50p/25p/24p
25Mbps (CBR) — 4:2:0 — 1440 x1080 at 50i/25p/24p

CBR = Continuous Bit Rate
VBR = Variable Bit Rate

Additional professional features include variable-interval (for time-lapse) and frame-record for stop-motion animation, and a photo feature for frame-grabs.

Genuine Canon 10x HD Zoom Lens
The Canon XF105 and XF100 Professional Camcorders feature a Genuine Canon 10x HD Zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 30.4mm – 304mm. For professional looking results, both models offer an eight-blade iris which yields natural, smooth background blur with reduced lens diffraction. The lens also features a SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) system featuring Dynamic and Powered IS modes for optimal performance in the greatest variety of situations.

DIGIC DV III Image Processor
The proprietary Canon DIGIC DV III Image Processor and Canon Full HD CMOS Image Sensor render native 1920 x 1080 HD video, capturing natural, lifelike colors with remarkable tonal gradations and detail. The DIGIC DV III Image Processor also powers Canon’s innovative Face Detection Technology, an autofocus option that can significantly reduce the effort required when camera operators work alone, such as in news gathering applications.

Compact, Comfortable Ergonomics and Operation
Weighing less than 3lbs, these models are designed to maximize comfort while shooting and enable fast on-the-go recording with both a top and side grip option. Eachcamcorder also features a convenient, freely rotating 3.5-inch, 920,000 dot LCD monitor and .24-inch 260,000 electronic viewfinder with approximately 100 percent field of coverage. The LCD monitor provides a display of the camcorders’ built-in waveform monitor to aid in achieving accurate exposure while shooting. Additionally, the LCD can show peaking, edge-monitor-focus and magnify the image, enabling users to confirm critical focus, an essential objective in all HD production.

Affordable 3-D Shooting
Canon offers built-in features to assist with 3-D production, including OIS Lens Shift to aid in optically aligning two XF105 or XF100 camcorders and a Focal length Guide for displaying the zoom position of each camera in relation to each other and calibrating the zoom distance. This adjustment can be done through the menu system while the camcorder is mounted to a rig or tripod. Once aligned, the amount of the angle-of-view change is displayed after zoom adjustment, preventing camera misalignment and simplifying adjustment.

Infrared Shooting
The Canon XF105 and XF100 include an infrared feature enabling the capture of HD video shooting in conditions with little tozero ambient light, which is ideal for Military and Law Enforcement markets, as well as Nature and Wildlife videographers. The XF105 and XF100 also feature an infrared emitter with a diffuser as well as a Green or White color option to shoot pleasing infrared imagery even in complete darkness.

Audio Flexibility
The Canon XF105 and XF100 Professional Camcorders feature dual XLR inputs for external audio sources as well as a built-in stereo microphone. The new camcorders support 16-bit PCM audio at 48 kHz with automatic and manual audio level adjustment

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

IBC kicks off in 5 days time

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This years IBC is possibly the most anticipated video show for a long time as we await the price and availability of the Panasonic AF101 and a similar version form Sony. The Panasonic AF101 is the HDSLR killer and shares the same sensor as the Panasonic GH1 prosumer HDSLR. A tentative price for the AF101 will be £4000…that’s £400 cheaper than a Canon EOS 1d Mk4.

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

Panasonic AG-AF101 £4000 quoted from HD Magazine IBC 2010

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£4000 is the price quoted by HD Magazine for the new AG-AF101 to be officially launched at IBC 2010. Now if this price is correct we are going to see an influx of DPs ordering this camcorder. The AF101 is due out during December 2010 but will be available in small quantities at first.

I have been bleating on about this camcorder for over a month now but it’s no secret that Scarlet has been put on the back burner knowing this camcorder is on it’s way to spoil the party.

There will also be an important announcement from Sony Broadcast from IBC about their FilmLike camcorder and I hope at least one of these professional models has 50Mbs or more though once again you can attach a NanoFlash via the HD SDI connector.

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

BBC Approved HD Cameras

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Just in case you get a call from the BBC you may like to know the approved HD camcorder list as from September 2010. You may notice the lack of Sony EX3 or PMW-350 camcorders even although the EX3 is widely used by the BBC for filming HD material at 35Mbs I may add.

You can use the EX3 or PMW-350 if you use a NanoFlash running at 50Mbs taking the signal from the HD-SDI connector. Personally the BBC should get it’s act together times are moving on and fast it’s all very commendable to have a pretend blanket ban on anything less than 50Mbs but it’s now creeping out like a bad smell that a few programmes have been made using the Canon 5DMk11 like “Shelf Stackers”. Independent cameramen are getting a little cheesed off not knowing what to buy as far as HD is concerned, Sky are now using P2 but very few independent cameramen work for Sky regularly to justify the £20,000 for an “Approved” P2 camcorder.

I am telling all my DP colleagues to hang fire, the PMW-350 is actually better by all accounts than the PDW 700 but good old Sony decided to stick with 35Mbs restricting it’s use unless you attach a NanoFlash, but the BBC have no indication for using EX3, EX1R, PMW-350 with a NanoFlash…YET !

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BBC are now having second thoughts on HDSLRs for broadcast

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This has come from the very top in my opinion, Danielle Nagler, Head of BBC HD has put the lid on this story due to it’s detrimental effect it was having on the BBC as an organisation. HD Magazine has been asked by the BBC to pull a story about the BBC accepting HDSLR’s for broadcast…the plot thickens.

Extract from HD Magazine…
“Following our story on the use of the Canon 5D Mk2 on a BBC drama – transmitted on September 16, 9.00pm BBC 4 – we got a call from the BBC Technology department today asking us to emphasize that DSLRs were not on the approved camera list for the BBC but were being looked at for use on a ‘case by case’ basis.

Ian Potts who is an Executive Producer at the BBC and part of the approval process explained the BBC’s approach to these new cameras: “Cameras like the 5D and the 7D are going through our R&D departments and our simulations but at the moment they are not cleared for use mainly because of their aliasing issues. Moire patterns are also a concern but these aren’t new and cameras like the Arri D20 and D21 also show them. But the fact that the 5D produces a 22 megapixel image then brings that down to 2 for video without the necessary processing and filtering does concern us but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

“The images are very clean from the programme and it has passed our ‘tech test’. I’m just about to see it and will probably give it my approval as well. But it still has to go through our transmission chain and might not make it on to our HD channel.

“We are very interested in this camera and have taken the view to approach all requests to use the Canon DSLR’s on a case by case basis which means production have to send in camera tests without any grading and post route tests with grading. If we then felt the picture quality met the required HD standards we might agree to allowing the DSLR as the prime camera. This is how we approached ‘Coronation St’ and it was very touch and go as the early tests revealed unacceptable aliasing, but after much bouncing back of SR tapes between Manchester and TVC which ran into the first days of the shoot we found a camera setting that seemed to work. On this basis we gave them approval to use the 5D but reserved the right not to show the film on the HD channel if it fell short of BBC HD’s standards.

“To confirm the show has passed tech review and will tx on the 16th Sept 21.00 BBC 4 & BBC HD”.

There was a screening of the programme at BAFTA in London last night and a Q&A with the production team followed. All were pleased with the look but as the projection was from an uncompressed master judgement will be reserved until the TX date. Interestingly when Ian mentioned to the producer of the show that the camera wasn’t yet approved she was quite shocked.

Ian went on to say that at the moment the BBC is in the process of a massive tendering project to approve new HD cameras for use at the corporation and anything less than 50mb/s data rate is being looked at unfavourably. Results from the tender should be published next month.”

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BBC4 uses a Canon 5DMk11 on a very low budget drama.

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Picture © HD Magazine

Excerpts from HD Magazine

DP Tim Palmer “Going in to the meeting for this drama I knew it was very low budget , it was BBC4 so they wouldn’t have any money for anything but at the same time it was a period film and they would want to have a very sumptuous look to it. Having had experience of the 5D and having been a stills photographer in my early days I knew that the camera could deliver better than cinema quality pictures better than a cheap broadcast video camera.

Obviously the BBC were very unwilling to sign off on something like that because it wasn’t on their approved list and initially they were saying that for an HD programme they could only support 25% of the programme shot on a non ‘so called’ HD camera.

We shot a lot of tests which looked wonderful but the engineers at the BBC were saying that there was aliasing and moiré patterns that would make them fail the use of the camera for HD broadcast.

The head of technology at the BBC, Ian Potts, who was very supportive in our early days saying ‘You have these technical issues that would fail our broadcast tests but it’s very interesting what you’re doing and please do some more tests because we’d love to see what you do’. After seeing the four day’s worth of rushes he was so completely smitten with it and said it was some of the best material they’d ever had, ‘finish the film on it’. It went from nought to 60 in half a second.”

Avoid fast pans over vertical objects but in practice when you’re filming actors and actors are moving around and you’re following their faces you don’t notice it really. There might be a bit of skewing on a lamp post on the edge of frame. If you’re watching a good story and it’s looking good you don’t think about it.”

HDW : I love the intro to this story “I knew it was very low budget” no surprise there then that BBC 4 decided to allow Tim to use his 5DMk11. It’s a joke these cameras are not fit for purpose and low to no budget BBC dramas are being shot with sub standard equipment. The BBC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this.

The Sony 750 plus 35mm adapter and a hired box of prime lenses is the BBCs preferred way of producing period drama, I was involved myself only last December with the BBC and DP Graham Smith used the 750, 35mm adapter and prime lenses.

Don’t get me wrong the 750 plus accessories is cumbersome to say the least but it’s the correct way as for now to produce shallow depth of field FilmLike pictures for the BBC.

It’s all dictated by budget or should I say lack of budget…IF THEY DON’T HAVE THE MONEY THEN DON’T COMPROMISE THE PRODUCTION. Cheap skate productions are not part of the BBCs remit and I for one are alarmed that BBC NO BUDGET 4 is allowed to get away with this decision.

Can I point BBC NO BUDGET 4 to IBC less that 12 days away and to Panasonic debuting the AG-AF101 FilmLike 4/3″ camcorder…THIS IS AT LEAST FIT FOR PURPOSE AND WILL DO EVERYTHING THE 5DMk11 CAN DO EXCEPT BETTER !

It’s all about working for next to nothing these days so production values suffer time and time again…this one camcorder from Panasonic will at least start to address the balance and bring back some sense to this HDSLR madness.

It does not matter how much meccano you put in front of an HDSLR they are fraught with serious problems which over the last 15 months or so have NOT been addressed by Canon or Nikon…WHY…because they refuse to compromise the number one feature of this camera and that is to take photographs…I rest my case.

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My Memory reduce Transend 16G Class 10 to £22…BUY…BUY…BUY

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

Work for nothing…I need the experience…looks good on the CV

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Now while I think it is great that media has been acknowledged by the colleges and universities, there is a big, big, BIG problem afoot within the industries. I get a lot of emails from students asking me about how to get started in camerawork etc so I know that such people read this site a lot.

The industry is being destroyed. Literally. It is being eaten from within by a gigantic maggot that won’t stop eating until every last morsel has been devoured.

Recently I was told of someone in broadcast whose day rate had been slashed from £300 a day to £80 a day. Now for many media students the idea that someone who does camerawork can get paid between £300 and £600 a day is very enticing. A lot of people think it is a way to become rich. Still others, the ones who are causing the present destruction of the industry think that they can be clever and start charging far less, or doing the work for free.

Let me tell you guys about the £500 average day rate. You might not work every day of the week. Hell on a slow month it might be your only days work! Not sounding so bloody great now is it? Even if you worked most days of the week, that money still has to account for a pot that contains business expenses such as insurance, electricity bills, phone bills etc. It also has to account for any new equipment that is needed. As well as this it has to account for days when you aren’t working, unpaid time basically.

When all the maths are done £500 a day is roughly what you need to keep your business running and to be comfortable. NOT rich. Please also take into account that camerawork is a very highly skilled profession. With that in mind it isn’t a huge amount of money at all. Many camera guys these days are barely breaking even.

This problem is made far, far worse by the sheer number of media students leaving university and being quite willing to work for free or for very low rates just to get their foot in the door. The trouble is this. The employers know that there is a constant stream of shmucks every year who will work for bread and water. Think you have a future in the industry? Think again. You’ve just helped to destroy your own career. Next year there will be more students coming out of Uni who will be hired instead of you because they, like you in the year before, will be willing to work for nothing.

When mainstream broadcast television sinks to the level of offering a budget for four hour long documentary programmes of £2,225 each, there is one hell of a serious problem. Possibly an irreversible one.

The dilution of budgets and advertisers across so many television channels hasn’t helped matters. But low ballers have made an already bad issue a lot worse. You aren’t being clever by offering really low rates. You are killing your own prospects for the future.

HDW : I came against this problem years ago when I filmed in the lucrative quality end of the wedding video market place, the cheap-skaters as I called them, the one’s too frightened to up their prices so they produced quantity rather than quality.

Joe Public don’t care how much your camcorder cost as long as you give them pictures and sound so this ethic snakes it’s way along the wedding video marketplace giving the lower end a bad name and crap prices… £80 for one days filming and one days poor editing. You get what you pay for.

I was charging £900 for our basic package seven years ago when many of my so called competitors were charging £250 for a heap of junk. I dispare that we have HDSLRs filming weddings today not because they produce lesser pictures but more the fact that it’s an open door for anyone with such a basic piece of equipment to pretend they are professional and charge for their work !

The broadcasters will always chance their arms, budgets have been slashed and so have their commissioning power but if I were told to produce four one hour long documentaries for £2,225 each I would tell them to stick their budget up their jacksie and bad mouth them on the internet…only by whistle-blowing on these cowboy broadcasters will sense finally prevail or will it…remember the hard up media student would be only to glad to earn £8,900 to see his/her work on telly and add the experience to his/her CV !

Simon you are giving sound advice but sadly those of us who have worked up the ranks are a minority to the masses of students looking for jobs and work experience, they have spent at least 3 years being kidded by their college or university that this will lead to a job at the end of it knowing all to well that less than 5% per year stand a chance of getting work in the so called “media industry”. They have also started courses on HDSLRs… for what ?…because it’s fashionable not because it’s anything like practical.

In fact there’s a great documentary… someone should follow 10 media students from 10 parts of the UK for 4 years and see who gets a job at the end of their course in mainstream broadcasting !

You can catch Simon here at : http://www.simonwyndham.co.uk


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