Along with the smaller HM100 (see the next selection), JVC's shouldermount GY-HM700 (Figure 1, below) model is JVC's first professional, solid-state offering. It records 35Mbps, 25Mbps, and 19Mbps of video directly to MP4 and Final Cut-ready MOV files onto widely available and inexpensive SDHC cards. There are two SDHC slots so when one card is filled, the camera automatically switches to the other; the cards are hot-swappable as well. The camera has a 3-CCD optical block that will put out 720p (at progressive frame rates of 24, 25, and 30), 1080i (50i and 60i), or 1080p (24, 25, and 30).
Because it uses flash memory, the HM700 can "retro record," always buffering a set time, and will add it to the beginning of the segment when you hit the record button. It also sports a new bayonet-mount 14x1 Canon 1/3" lens. The 4.3" LCD screen is the biggest I've seen on a camera. It also sports a new higher-resolution viewfinder. You can't record standard DV, but you can down-convert over FireWire. If you want to record to the more-expensive SxS cards for faster data transfer, there is an optional module that allows for that as well.
The HM700 carries an MSRP of $7,995, including camera, Canon 14x1 lens, Anton/Bauer mount, and shotgun mic.
The HM100 (Figure 2, below) is the "little brother" of the GY-HM700 in a handheld design. It has many of the same features as the HM700. It sports three 1/4" progressive CCDs with a built-in Fujinon 10x1 lens. It has a 2.8" LCD, built-in XLR audio connectors for pro mics, and a built-in stereo mic on the body, just in case. The HM100's $3,995 MSRP includes the camera, a short shotgun mic, and a battery.
Panasonic's engineering team did a lot more with this camera than simply putting its HPX170 in a shoulder-mount form. It built the HPX300 (Figure 3, below) from the ground up, starting with a new 20-bit DSP for all of its processing. Featuring three 3-MOS 2.2 megapixel progressive imagers, it can record a whole range of different signals. In HD, it can record in 100Mbps DVCPRO-HD or AVC-Intra for HD-D5 quality or 50Mbps for DVCPRO-HD quality to double the recording time. It also records in standard-def in DVCPRO25 or DVCPRO50. In DVCPRO-HD, the camcorder records 1080/59.94i, 1080/29.97p, 1080/23.98p, 1080/23.98pA, 720/
59.94p, 720/29.97p, 720/29.97pN, and 720/23.98pN. In AVC-Intra, which is a 10-bit, 4:2:2 codec in 100Mbps, you have the added flexibility to use 24pN or 30pN.
The camera supports undercrank and overcrank in the 720p mode settings. In 480, it will do 24p, 24pA, and 30p, as well as 60i. This camera sports two P2 slots and an SD/SDHC slot on the "driver's side" of the camera. This allows for the loading of Scene Files, or User Files, which are totally separate, and for the uploading of metadata files that can be preplanned days ahead of the shoot. The SD/SDHC slot allows you to record low-resolution proxy files either to hand off to a producer for playback on an iPod or to email if you've installed the optional proxy card. If you need to update the camera's software, you download the update to an SD card via a computer, stick it into the same card slot on the HPX300, and tell it to update from the card.
Another soon-to-come feature is "flash-band compensation." Due to the rolling shutter nature of the CMOS imager, CMOS cameras (and "3-MOS" is a CMOS variation) are affected by flashes. Part of the flash will appear on one frame and the other part will show up on the next frame, making for odd-looking video that a videographer at a wedding reception (or any other event with a flash-wielding photographer) will be unable to control. The good news is that Panasonic has come up with a way of dealing with this issue. The flash-band compensation feature will become available in the HPX300's first downloadable upgrade, due to be released this summer.
The MSRP for the HPX300 is $10,700, which includes camera, viewfinder, Fujinon 17x1 lens, and Anton/Bauer mount.
Panasonic's new handheld camcorder, the AG-HMC40 (Figure 4, below), looks a lot like the company's AG-DVC30 DV camcorder. Weighing in at 2.2 lbs., the camera records in AVCHD format, using MPEG-4 AVC/
H.264 high-profile encoding to SD cards. It can also take 10.6 megapixel stills, which may make for some unhappy photographers. It has a 12x1 lens with three 1/4'' 3-MOS imagers to record full 1080/59.94i (in all modes) and 1080/29.97p, 1080/23.98p native, 720/59.94p, 720/29.97p, and 720/23.98p native (in PH mode only). It also has the ability to record a time/date stamp for legal depositions. The HMC40 carries an MSRP of $3,195, which includes just the camera. Pricing for an optional XLR adapter and mini-shotgun mic have not been announced yet.
Petrol Inflatable Airline Bag
One of the banes of in-the-field video production is the schlepping of equipment that is involved. For 7 years, my travel camera was a Sony TRV-900. Because of all of the accessories-batteries, charger, lights, a mic kit-the camera filled the VHS carrying case I had gotten at WEVA Expo several years ago. Traveling with a full-size camera such as the Sony HVR-S270 can be a complete nightmare if you need to travel by airplane. If you rub one gate person or fight attendant the wrong way, he or she will relegate your $10,000 worth of gear into the belly of the plane because it won't fit in an overhead bin. If this happens, you'll stand a better chance of seeing your equipment on eBay than on the baggage carousel.
Petrol solves this issue with its new, $259 inflatable camera bag (Figure 5, below). It has four air bladders that you can inflate to protect your camera, but it can be deflated to fit in the overhead compartment as needed, still giving your camera some level of protection. If you often travel by air to get to gigs, this may be your bag.
KATA One Man Band (OMB) Bag
As I mentioned earlier, schlepping equipment is the bane of a videographer's life, whether traveling by air or on the ground. I usually have my camera, Anton/Bauer batteries, Sennheiser G2, lights, and tapes packed in my large KATA "Banana Case" and my Anton/Bauer Titan twin charger, battery belts, and other stuff in a Rubbermaid 10-gallon container.
KATA's new OMB (Figure 6, below) allows terrestrial travelers to get it all in one semi-ridged bag with optional wheels. The camera goes in the main compartment and the accessories go in smaller surrounding compartments; there is even a compartment for a laptop. Better yet, there is enough room in the bag for your camera set up with battery, mics, and whatever else you use on it; you can leave it all set up in the OMB. On the outside of the bag, there are straps to hold your tripod. There are four different size models to fit your needs: the OMB-72, the OMB-74, the OMB-75, and the OMB-77, which includes the trolley. Prices range from $275 to $455, depending on size.
Last year, the Litepanels Micro made the list for its lightweight and high-performance LED light. But for all its advantages on a shoot, there were still some times when I'd need to pull out my incandescent Cool-lux Tri-Light for longer throws. This year, Litepanels gives us the MicroPro (Figure 7, below). This new big brother to the Micro has twice as many LEDs and runs on six AA batteries (instead of four) for more power. It still weighs only 9 oz. with batteries. Like its little brother, you can buy or make a cable to plug into its DC power port to run off a belt or an Anton/Bauer power tap. Its MSRP is $525.
Shining Technology CitiDISK CFR
In addition to shipping new, larger-capacity, flash-disk-based units such as the CitiDISK FlashMem 250GB and the standard hard-drive-based CitiDISK HD (now up to 500GB), Shining Technology, Inc. introduced a new unit, the CitiDISK CFR (Figure 8, below), which accepts inexpensive CF cards to record DV and HDV. I like the idea that you can swap out the CF cards so you don't have to stop shooting to dump the whole disk. With this model, you can just replace the CF card and keep shooting. This is also the first CitiDISK product to feature an LCD screen for adjusting settings and watching time codes. While it would be nice if the unit could accept popular 16GB CF cards (it only supports cards of 30MB and higher), this is a piece of gear that is sure to end up in many camera bags and attached to many cameras. The estimated street price for this unit is less than $700.
Focus Enhancements FireStore FS-5 2.0
Focus Enhancements launched its FS-5 hard-drive recording unit (Figure 9, below) at last year's NAB. It had a nice, large, color LCD panel so you could easily adjust things in the menu or view clip information. The question the company kept hearing was, "Can you watch the clip on it?" Last year, the answer was no. The answer this year is yes! You can now review your footage even if you aren't attached to a camera or a computer. The even better news for FS-5 1.0 users is that you can upgrade your current unit with a software upgrade to play clips back. Pricing begins at $1,299 and scales based on storage capacity.
Bodelin Technologies ProPrompter iPhone/iPod touch Teleprompter
I saw this little gem as I was being chased out of Central Hall at closing time. I don't always need a teleprompter. But when I do need one, it's always on short notice, which means I need to see which of my friends has one that I can borrow. ProPrompter has introduced two kits that turn Apple's popular iPhone or iPod touch into a prompter. The software is $9.99 in the App Store. The process works as follows: Type your script on your computer, save it as a text-only file, upload it to the ProPrompter website (where you'll have a free account), and then download it to your iPhone or iPod touch.
One kit simply mounts the iPhone on a bracket next to the lens of a small camera. The other kit is a more traditional setup that uses a Fresnel lens to increase the size of the iPhone/iPod touch's reflection in the mirror. Pricing for the software is $9.99. The ProPrompter Wing (a bracket that holds it next to the lens) lists for $99, and ProPrompter ProMag (the full system with mirror) costs $695.
HP Z Series Workstations
HP announced its dramatically redesigned workstation line-models Z400, Z600, and Z800-shortly before NAB. For the first time, the entry-level model (the Z400) sports a single Intel Xeon 3500 series CPU. Normally, the entry-level workstations would use a Core 2 Duo or Quad. The Z600 and the Z800 (Figure 10, below) feature totally new cases designed by BMW Design Works, have a toolless and nearly cableless chassis, boast easy-to-grip handles, and incorporate up to two quad-core Xeon 5500 series CPUs. The Z800 features up to 192GB of RAM. Since the 5500 CPUs are "hyper-threaded," having dual quad core CPUs installed will look like 16 CPUs in the system performance manager.
JVC SR-HD1500US Blu-ray/HDD/SDHC Professional Combo Deck
Once my edit is done, most of the time, the client wants only a DVD without chapters and menus. That can easily be done on one of my Panasonic DVD recorders. With Blu-ray, now we basically have to go through the whole authoring process without the menus and hours of rendering to burn the most basic Blu-ray Disc on a Mac or PC.
Due to be released this fall, JVC's Blu-ray recording deck operates in the same way as the DVD recording decks most of us have. In addition to hooking up your HD deck via 1394 (FireWire) to the Blu-ray recorder and hit record, it can transfer video from SDHC cards when they're inserted in the machine's SDHC slot. The unit also has an internal 500GB hard drive for archiving and copying discs and video. It also records standard DVDs. MSRP for the Blu-ray deck is $2,195.
Sony Vegas Pro 9
Sony's popular pro NLE gets a face-lift, along with the ability for users to customize the interface to their liking. The new Vegas Pro 9 (Figure 11, below) interface may be a shock for Vegas veterans, but they'll get used to it. It integrates seamlessly with Sony XDCAM files, rendering only what's needed and not recompressing footage that doesn't need it. It also supports native AVCHD editing and resolutions up to 4K. Sony Creative Software has created six new video effects-Rays, Defocus, Fill Light, Glint, Soft Contrast, and Starburst-that you'll find very useful in the creative process. The "Box" version of Sony Vegas Pro lists for $679, while the downloadable version is available for $599. Upgrade pricing is $234.95. (For more detail on Sony Vegas Pro 9, see David McKnight's "What's New in Sony Vegas Pro 9.")
Sony Vegas Pro Production Assistant
Also newly available from Sony Creative Software is Vegas Pro Production Assistant, a plug-in acquired from VASST. Production Assistant automates many common video chores.
It will help you make a video/photo montage, add motion to your clips, generate lower-thirds, automate audio functions such as normalization, and batch-process your transcodes. In my book, anything that cost-effectively speeds up mundane chores to get it out of the studio is a good thing. Its MSRP is $199.
Matrox MXO2 Mini
I love flexibility in a product. Being able to function on both Mac and Windows is on the top of the list, as I do my post work on a Mac Pro with Leopard and on Windows. The Matrox MXO Mini (Figure 12, below) is the first Matrox product to work seamlessly on both operating systems. It supports HDMI and analog component, Y/C and composite, and standard and high-definition and stereo RCA for audio capture and monitoring. Through the HDMI I/O, you can color-calibrate an inexpensive monitor using Matrox's calibration tools. While this may not accelerate video rendering as Matrox's Axio and RT.X2 products do, it allows you to capture uncompressed 8-bit or 10-bit video as well as several other compressed formats. Workstations require a PCI-e host adapter, and notebooks require an ExpressCard/34 adapter.
For maximum flexibility, you can order both host adapters for an extra $100. It works with Apple's FCP, Apple Color, Adobe After Effects, and all QuickTime applications that support the V-out component on the Mac. On Windows, it supports Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and provides WYSIWYG support for popular applications such as Adobe Encore CS4, Photoshop CS4, and After Effects CS4; Autodesk 3ds Max and Combustion; and NewTek LightWave 3D (32-bit versions only). The MXO2 Mini has an MSRP of $449.
Matrox Compress HD
Matrox also introduced Compress HD, an accelerator card for encoding H.264 for Blu-ray production, using the company's new Matrox MAX technology. Like the MXO2 Mini, Compress HD works on both Mac and Windows systems. It encodes faster than real time, meaning it will take an 8-core Mac 18 minutes (instead of 90 minutes) to render a 20-minute file. It works with Compressor, FCP, and QuickTime on the Mac and with Adobe Media Encoder on Windows. Soon it will be compatible with older products such as the RT.X2 and Axio. Currently, it will function in systems with I/O cards from AJA, Blackmagic Design, and others. It can be purchased alone or integrated into the MXO2 Mini. MSRP is $495 for the PCI-e card or $849 built into the MXO2 Mini hardware.
Grass Valley EDIUS 5.1
This free update to Grass Valley EDIUS 5 (Figure 13, below) has many great new features. The most exciting is the ability to import CPU-heavy AVCHD footage and transcode it into the EDIUS HQ intermediate codec for less processor-intensive editing. The codec also helps keep up the quality during editing. EDIUS 5.1 supports partial capture of Infinity JPEG2000, Panasonic P2, Sony XDCAM, and Ikegami GF clips. This enables the user to edit in proxy. During the final conform (render), EDIUS transfers only the high-resolution material used in the final program rather than entire clips, dramatically reducing conform time. EDIUS 5.1 also allows output of a completed timeline to an HD Blu-ray Disc using software encoding or the optional Grass Valley FIRECODER Blu H.264/ MPEG-2 hardware transcoder board. MSRP is $799, but 5.1 is a free upgrade for registered 5.0 users. There's a nominal upgrade fee from v. 4.0.
Boris Continuum Complete 6
I've always liked Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) for its wide range of useful effects for video production. While there are 200 great effects in BCC 6 (Figure 14, below), there is one effect that makes this a must-have: the BCC Pixel Fixer. Sooner or later you'll receive footage with a glaring white spot in dark areas caused by a cluster of dead pixels on the offending camera's optical block. Depending on the camera, it has been my experience that the necessary fix will cost you $700 to $3,000 for standard definition and more for high definition. This filter will fix the dead pixels (up to 10 clusters at a time) without any repairs needed on the camera. If you have an offending SD camera that you don't want to sink any more money into, this is your solution.
Aside from the Pixel Fixer, the 3D Text feature is great, allowing you to turn 2D titles into 3D from your editing application. The Swish Pan filter combines two clips to make it look like you did an artistic swish pan in the camera-very cool. There are many other filters that are artistic or that will save you from defective footage. If you don't want the whole Continuum package (which lists for $995; upgrades for $295), you may purchase specific FX Units of FX from within the Complete bundle for $99-$299. BCC 6 is available as a plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects (Windows and Mac), Avid (Windows and Mac), Final Cut Pro, and many others.
SmartSound Sonicfire Pro FCP Plug-in
One of my favorite products at NAB 2008 was SmartSound's Quicktracks for Premiere Pro. It didn't allow for multilayer Mood Mapping, let alone any other editing except for length. But it was a quick way to get a background music track in your video without rendering out your video first. Now, SmartSound has gone a step further. Once you install Sonicfire Pro 5.1 (a free upgrade for Sonicfire Pro 4 and 5 owners) and purchase the Final Cut Pro Plug-in (Figure 15, below), Sonicfire Pro will read timeline markers and "Send" custom-fit music directly into your Final Cut Pro project. It even supports round-trip editing so you can easily fine-tune the music to the video. It would be nice to see something similar for Premiere Pro, Vegas, and other popular NLEs.
Pricing is as follows: SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 5.1 Express Track Edition, free with music purchase; Scoring Edition, $99.95; Final Cut Pro Plug-in, $49.95.
Marc Franklin (marcfvp at yahoo.com) has been in video production more than 20 years, spanning event videography, TV, and film. Marc has written for Studio Monthly and Student Filmmakers, and he has been in the Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, and TV Technology. He is VP of technology for the American Videographers Association in California’s San Fernando Valley.