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October 28, 2008

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Thoughts On the Panasonic AG-HPX170
Tiffen Dfx version 2.0 Digital Filter Software Now Available for Adobe Photoshop CS4
Music 2 Hues Adds "Soft Acoustic Pop" to its Flagship Series
Blackmagic Design DeckLink Cards Enable Softron MovieRecorder to Simultaneously Capture from Two Video Sources on a Single MacPro
Artbeats Introduces Industry's First Royalty-Free Footage Shot with the RED One Camera
EditGroove releases UserMatic to Help Editors Take Control of Their Preferences
NEC Display Solutions Introduces the New MultiSync P Series 22" Widescreen Desktop Display
Panasonic to Ship VariCam 2700 Solid-State P2 HD Cinematography Camcorder with Master-Quality Recording
OWC Announces Industry's First External Blu-ray Drives with "Quad Interface"

The Moving Picture: Thoughts On the Panasonic AG-HPX170

I just spent a month using Panasonic’s AG-HPX170 camcorder. While its P2 storage makes it an expensive choice for most event shooters, it boasts several new features that I hope will become standard in future camcorders. Several of its features demonstrate the value of solid state storage that will become particularly relevant when AVCHD camcorders that utilize less expensive SD memory become widely available. Let’s start with shooting-related features.

One of the biggest challenges of HD recording is trying to achieve a sharp manual focus using only the camera’s CCD or tiny viewfinder. Some HD camcorders can zoom the preview image to 2X to assist focus, but this view is usually only available during preview, not while recording, which is like a GPS device that works only when you’re stationary and turns off once you start driving.

In contrast, the HPX170 offers four Focus Assist features (in addition to a peaking display) that actually work and stay visible while you’re shooting. To start, when you enable Focus Assist, the camcorder displays a zoomed preview in the middle of the viewfinder, a histogram in the upper-right corner, and a moving bar below the zoomed image. I found the moving bar the more helpful gauge. Essentially, as you focus on your subject, the bar extends to the right. If you go too far, it starts backing down to the left; so you focus until the bar is at maximum length. In contrast, the histogram comprises black pixels on the right and white pixels on the left; as you focus in, the white pixels shift to the right, receding if you dial the focus ring too far. As mentioned, all of these indicators remain onscreen while you’re actually recording.

But wait, there’s more. Panasonic also debuted a feature called Manual Focus Assist. In this mode, you manually focus with the focus ring as normal, and once you get close enough for the camera to discern your target, it takes over, and automatically makes the last fine adjustments, which you can track by watching small movements of the focus bar. The result is absolutely striking and quite comforting, as the image in the CCD and viewfinder (and, ultimately, the recording) was absolutely sharp, all the time. Note that if you want your image to be slightly out of focus, or to shoot a rack focus shot, you can disable this feature, and go all manual.

The next area of note with this camera is exposure control. Here, Panasonic lets you display a waveform monitor on the LCD panel that doesn’t appear in the viewfinder—this is a brilliant touch since it lets you frame and focus in the viewfinder and monitor exposure on the LCD. To display the waveform monitor, you press the Scopes button. Click it again, and a vectorscope replaces the waveform; click it once more and both scopes go away.

Of course, the camera has two levels of zebra-stripes display that you can toggle through to test values as well. When other scopes aren’t active, the camera displays the luminance value of the pixel in the center of the frame. If the valus is not 95-plus when you’re white balancing, you know that you’ve got potential exposure issues.

I used these controls on several real-world shoots. Believe me, once you have them, you’re going to want them on every shoot. I’d be very surprised if the next iteration of camcorders from Canon and Sony don’t offer similar features.

What about the camera’s P2 storage? At 100Mbps, DVCPRO HD consumes 1GB per minute, and 32GB cards, the maximum storage currently available, cost about $1,500. The HPX170 has two P2 slots. You can hot-swap, or remove a drive, copy the video content off to a hard disk, reformat the P2 card, and then reinsert it, all while continuously recording. This will cost you $3,000 for the two 32GB cards, but buying enough cards to capture an entire event without hot-swapping—say 180 minutes—is cost-prohibitive ($9,000), especially if you’re shooting with multiple cameras. These numbers get much friendlier if you factor in AVCHD video stored off to SD cards. At AVCHD’s maximum bitrate of 24Mbps, you can fit up to 180 minutes of video on a 32GB card that costs only $150, with prices dropping fast.

Why do I like solid state storage? There are several reasons. First, the storage mechanism is so much more reliable than tape that Panasonic offers a 5-year warranty on the unit. Second, capture is as simple as inserting the SD disk into your computer and copying the files over, which is faster than real-time DV/HDV capture. Finally, solid-state memory allows features such as configurable pre-record that continuously captures a few seconds of video. If you’re late pressing the record button, you still get the shot. Solid state also makes it easier to view what you’ve recorded while you’re shooting, since each scene is saved as a separate video that you can access via simple menu controls (no more rewinding!).

Solid state does present some archiving issues: I love having my tapes around as a cheap archive medium. Still, with 1TB drives costing less than $200, this certainly isn’t as big an issue as it used to be. Overall, while P2 is too expensive for most event shooters, the market is ripe for a camcorder like Panasonic’s AG-HMC150, which offers full-resolution CCDs and full bitrate AVCHD recording.

Jan Ozer (jan at doceo.com) is a frequent contributor to industry magazines and websites on digital video-related topics and the author of Critical Skills for Streaming Producers, a mixed media tutorial on DVD published by StreamingMedia.com.

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Tiffen Dfx version 2.0 Digital Filter Software Now Available for Adobe Photoshop CS4

In conjunction with Adobe’s release of its Photoshop Creative Suite 4 for Windows, Tiffen is pleased to announce the availability of a new Dfx v2.0 plug-in specifically for Adobe CS4 owners wanting to take advantage of 64-bit capability.

The new Tiffen Dfx v2.0 plug-in for Adobe CS4 includes the same exclusive multiple masking and layering capabilities found with other Tiffen Dfx v2.0 plug-ins for Photoshop and Aperture, as well as its standalone application. All of the Tiffen Dfx v2.0 editions are available for Macintosh or Windows and feature more than 1,000 new filters and effects including: Ambient Light, Close Up Lens, Dot, Eye Light, Flag, Gobo, HFX® Star, Haze, High Contrast, Ice Halos, Rainbows, Sepia, Sky, Soft Contrast, Soft Light, Warm Center Spot, Warm Polarizer, Water Droplets, Wide Angle Lens and 812® Warming.

Professionals and enthusiasts alike can now choose from a palette of more than 2,000 standard, exclusive and special effect filters that simulate Tiffen’s award-winning optical equivalents. These can all be quickly and easily customized, then saved to a filter library for later use.

An exclusive new feature with Tiffen Dfx version 2.0 plug-ins for Photoshop/Elements and Aperture owners is multiple masking and multiple layering capabilities without having to exit the plug-in each time.

This revolutionary new feature, speeds workflow and extends the already incredible capabilities inherent with Dfx Digital Filter software. Unlike other software that professes to offer you selection technology that is precise, our exclusive EZ Mask, one of seven mask types, allows users to create precise multiple masks with just a few quick strokes. And, with our multiple layering, users can quickly and simply add multiple filters on a single Photoshop layer. In addition, filters and masks can be easily copied and moved between Dfx layers.

Creative control no one else can even come close to, and there’s still more. Tiffen Dfx version 2.0 now includes foreign language support for French, Spanish, German and Japanese in the Adobe Photoshop, Apple Aperture and Stand-alone editions.

Tiffen Dfx version 2.0 is available as a standalone application for still images, specific plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop/CS4 or Elements, Apple Aperture and the most popular video post-production host software, such as Apple Final Cut Pro, and Express, Adobe After Effects and Avid Editing Systems. Tiffen Dfx version 2.0 is available for Windows XP and Vista and Macintosh systems v10.4 or higher and its new comprehensive Stand-alone edition has a suggested retail price of $99.95.

All Tiffen Dfx version 2.0 software is available as a free trial download from the Tiffen website at www.tiffen.com.

Current owners of original Dfx editions wanting to upgrade to the corresponding Dfx version 2.0 edition, should visit the Tiffen website for complete details.

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Music 2 Hues Adds "Soft Acoustic Pop" to its Flagship Series

Music 2 Hues has released a new addition to its Flagship Series production music line. The new title: "Soft Acoustic Pop" is now shipping worldwide. "This release satisfies the needs of our clients who have been asking for a CD of somber, smooth, and light upbeat acoustic guitar styled music," said Andy Wells, president of Music 2 Hues.

Music 2 Hues has also announced that its Instant Download Center now allows our clients to download complete Music & Sound Effects categories at a discount from the single track price. The Download Center provides all the music from Flagship Series CDs for immediate download. Over 1000 music tracks and 500 sound effects are offered in the download center.

www.music2hues.com

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Blackmagic Design DeckLink Cards Enable Softron MovieRecorder to Simultaneously Capture from Two Video Sources on a Single MacPro

Blackmagic Design Inc. today announced that its popular range of DeckLink cards are the only video capture cards available to enable two Softron MovieRecorder applications running on a single MacPro™ workstation to simultaneously capture video from two different sources. Using a MacPro coupled with two DeckLink cards and two applications of Softron MovieRecorder significantly enhances any facility's ingest capabilities.

"MovieRecorder greatly enhances any facility's ingest capabilities and does so at an incredibly low infrastructure investment, in many instances, using available hardware," said Mike Skibra, Softron Media Services, Business Development Manager. "This is because a single MacPro workstation, coupled with two DeckLink cards and two applications of MovieRecorder, running in a shared storage environment, can give multiple users access to the recording station and the recorded media without the need to purchase additional hardware devices at significantly higher cost."

MovieRecorder is used in numerous facilities around the world ranging from news and sports broadcasters, educational institutions, religious broadcasters and post production facilities.

"Professionals at every level are going to love the fact that they can use their DeckLink card with MovieRecorder to simultaneously capture video from two different sources," said Dan May, President, Blackmagic Design, Inc. "We are very pleased to support such a versatile and powerful application as MovieRecorder, making available another excellent tool to facilitate our customers' creativity and production."

Product Availability
All DeckLink cards are available from Blackmagic Design authorized resellers worldwide. DeckLink pricing starts at US$295.

www.blackmagic-design.com

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Artbeats Introduces Industry's First Royalty-Free Footage Shot with the RED One Camera

The industry's first and only royalty-free stock footage shot on the RED One digital camera is now available from Artbeats, with an initial release of more than 350 clips. Available for individual download, this new footage can be purchased with Artbeats' 'Buy 3, Get 4th Free' clip discount. For more information or to view the RED footage demo, please visit the Artbeats website at www.artbeats.com/redfootage.

"This is the first time that royalty-free footage with resolutions higher than High Definition (HD) (3K and 4K) is available on the market," said Phil Bates, president and founder of Artbeats. "By offering higher resolutions, plus the RED RAW files, our customers will now be able to pan, scan, rotate or crop the clip to create the desired look in HD - giving them increased flexibility and creative freedom when editing their HD projects."

Artbeats' RED footage features a multitude of subjects such as nature scenics, recreational lifestyles, industrial establishments, wild animals and so much more. Each clip is available in the original source size - either 2K, 3K or 4K resolution, depending on the clip, as well as NTSC, PAL and HD. The source RAW (.R3D) files will also be available for an additional fee, which gives users the ability to color correct the footage to match their own projects.

"This first launch is just a very small sampling of what's to come," continued Bates. "We have been actively shooting and are working on acquiring footage from outside sources that will encompass a wide range of subject matter. Watch for our RED library to grow very rapidly over the next several months."

Pricing and Availability
Artbeats' library includes 350 individual RED One clips that are available for download beginning Oct. 20. Pricing is $399 each for 4K and 3K clips, and $299 for 2K clips (available size and aspect ratio varies per clip); RAW (.R3D) files are an additional $100 after purchase of a hi-res clip. Low-res clips are available for $79 each. Artbeats' RED footage is sold as solo clips, which are eligible for the current 'Buy 3, Get 4th Free' clip discount. Additionally, NTSC, PAL and HD RED sourced clips will also be available. Please see the Artbeats www.artbeats.com/redfootage for sizes and information.

For more information on the RED One camera visit www.red.com.

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EditGroove releases UserMatic to Help Editors Take Control of Their Preferences

EditGroove Software announces the release of UserMatic - a powerful yet streamlined application for managing Final Cut Pro user preferences.

  • Tired of having to "Trash Your Preferences" and start over from scratch?
  • Want to have different versions of your editing settings for different types of projects, genres, etc.?
  • Ever need to troubleshoot them or roll them back, because of stray experimentation or corruption?
  • Weary of clashing with other users' ideas of how the FCP keyboard should be mapped?
  • Want an easy means of calling up your own Preferences from more than one workstation?
UserMatic(TM) solves all of these issues once and for all, encouraging & facilitating experimentation in the thousands of ways Final Cut Pro can be customized. It leverages the editor's time and creativity, by allowing for versioning, rollback points, easier troubleshooting, multiple users, and even multiple bays.

FCP settings that are stored in UserMatic(TM) include User Preferences, System Settings, Audio/Video Settings, choice of Easy Setup, Favorite Effects, Button Bars, Keyboard Layouts, Window Layouts, and more.

Features include the following:

  • Storage and Recall of an unlimited number of "user profiles" - each one containing an entire set of user customizations for Final Cut Pro.
  • One-button Backup: of the entire Library of user profiles into a single date/timestamped .ZIP file. Useful for further versioning and archiving, as well as conveniently transporting FCP user preferences from one facility to another (e.g., via a USB flash drive).
  • Trash button: reverts FCP back to its factory defaults, to clear existing customizations or for troubleshooting.
  • "Safety net" feature: Overwritten & deleted preferences are actually stored away in 'Deleted' folder, just in case.
  • Networking capability built-in. Simply pointing UserMatic(TM) to a network drive instantly allows for direct access to the same Library of user profiles from any number of FCP workstations (and potentially even from separate geographic locations, if desired).
User Matic(TM) was unveiled publicly for the first time at the Sept. 24 meeting of the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro Users Group (LAFCPUG) in Hollywood. Founder Michael Horton declared it "one of the best presentations we've had in a very long time, if not ever."

Specs and Availability

  • UserMatic(TM) is a Universal Binary (Intel/PowerPC). Requires Mac 10.3 or later.
  • Price is $34.95, with volume discounts available.
  • Further details, complete documentation, and download available at www.EditGroove.com

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NEC Display Solutions Introduces the New MultiSync P Series 22" Widescreen Desktop Display

NEC Display Solutions of America, a leading stand-alone provider of professional LCD displays and projectors, introduced today its new MultiSync P Series with the 22-inch P221W LCD monitor, the first display in this new family of desktop monitors. The P221W offers professionals working in color-critical environments the opportunity to take advantage of a professional grade desktop display without breaking their budgets.

The P221W display can be seen at the Photo Plus Expo (Booth No. 263) through today in New York. "Built upon the success of the 90 Series displays, the new MultiSync P Series has features specifically designed for the professional graphics user," said Stan Swiderski, Product Manager for NEC Display Solutions.

Featuring hardware color calibration using the optional NEC Spectraview kit, the P221W delivers accurate color in a simple to use and affordable package. The kit includes an optimized calibration sensor based on the highly acclaimed X-Rite iOne Display v2.

A partial list of features of the MultiSync P221W includes the following:

  • 1680 x 1050 native resolution
  • Wide color gamut achieves 96 percent coverage of AdobeRGB
  • Internal 10-bit programmable lookup tables (LUTs)
  • S-PVA LCD technology, which provides for the widest viewing angles available with minimal off-angle color shift
  • AmbiBright automatic brightness adjustment
  • 1000:1 typical contrast ratio
  • 16ms response time
  • 300 cd/m² typical brightness
  • XtraView+ 178° (88°/88°/88°/88°) viewing angle
  • ECO Mode and carbon footprint reduction
  • Analog and digital input signal
  • Four-way ergonomic stand (tilt/swivel/pivot/height-adjust)
  • Optional Soundbar 90
The P221W features a 3-year limited warranty and will be available for December 2008 shipment with an estimated street price of $636.90.

The SpectraView color calibration kit will be available in December 2008 with a customized sensor and software for wide gamut LCD displays with an estimated street price of $374.99.

www.necdisplay.com

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Panasonic to Ship VariCam 2700 Solid-State P2 HD Cinematography Camcorder with Master-Quality Recording

Panasonic announced today that its VariCam 2700 (model AJ-HPX2700) 2/3" P2 HD camcorder will be available later this month. Continuing the legacy of the VariCam HD Cinema camera, recognized worldwide as the industry’s premier digital cinematography camera, the VariCam 2700 delivers stunning film-like recordings with solid-state’s exceptional reliability and fast workflow to excel in today’s demanding production environments.

Panasonic’s new P2 HD VariCam series – consisting of the VariCam 2700 and the ultra performance VariCam 3700 (model AJ-HPX3700) -- advances the art of high-end high-definition cinematography by combining VariCam’s renowned filmic-look with key functions including variable frame rates, wide dynamic range and advanced master-quality, 10-bit 4:2:2 AVC-Intra recording.

Designed as a premium quality workhorse HD cinematography camcorder, the VariCam 2700 will shine in a wide range of mission-critical content creation applications, from sports and films to music videos and television commercials. Equipped with three full 1-megapixel 2/3" native HD CCDs, the VariCam 2700 records pristine, independent-frame 1080 and 720 images using advanced AVC-Intra 100 and AVC-Intra 50 compression, now supported by the industry’s leading nonlinear editing systems. AVC-Intra 100 provides full-raster, 10-bit master video quality for high-level shooting, while AVC-Intra 50 Mbps delivers robust DVCPRO HD quality at half the bit rate of the current compression, thereby doubling the record time on a P2 card. The camera also records in the widely supported DVCPRO HD format.

With the VariCam 2700, professionals can record in progressive or interlace HD video formats including 720 23.98p/24.00p/ 25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p, as well as 1080 23.98p/24.00p/25p/29.97p /50i /59.94i. The camera is switchable between 59.94-Hz and 50-Hz recording for use worldwide.

The VariCam 2700 has excellent sensitivity (F10 at 2,000 lx), and with 14-bit A/D processing, provides a wide dynamic range, full 12-axis control of matrix and color correction for precise image matching, and a host of unique shutter angle settings. The camera utilizes Chromatic Aberration Compensation (CAC) for optimum lens performance, a Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS) function to control wide variations in lighting and a built-in scan reverse for use with film lens.

Offering a full range of variable frame rates, from 1 fps to 60 fps (in 720p mode) in single-frame steps, the VariCam 2700 provides precise control for overcranking and undercranking for fast and slow motion effects. It also delivers 1080 23.98/24psf HD-SDI output (when in 1080 mode). The VariCam 2700 has seven selectable gamma settings including the notable VariCam Film-Rec mode.

The VariCam 2700 has the essential interfaces needed for high-end production including three HD-SDI outputs, down-converted SD video output and IEEE 1394 output (DVCPRO HD codec recording only) and USB 2.0. It incorporates 48-kHz/16-bit, four-channel digital audio recording and also offers valuable functions like scene file capabilities, focus assist functions, user buttons, user menu and newly-designed two-wheel (ND and CC) optical filters. The camera allows text memos and shot markers to be added as well as proxy data recording (with the optional AJ-YAX800G board).

The all-solid-state VariCam 2700 provides high-quality HD recording without the mechanical wear and environmental limitations of tape, hard disk, and optical disc based systems. The camera ensures the highest reliability, especially in challenging conditions of extreme temperature range, shock and vibration.

With solid-state technology, users can immediately access recorded content for on-set viewing (eliminating time spent digitizing). The HD Cinema camera also gives users the benefit of metadata capture so content can be managed more easily during shooting.

The VariCam 2700’s five P2 card slots allow continuous recording, card selection, hot swapping, loop rec, pre-rec, interval rec and one-shot recording. With five 32 GB P2 cards installed, operators can record up to 200 minutes in AVC-Intra 100 at 1080/24p, 400 minutes in AVC-Intra 100 at 720/24p, 320 minutes in other AVC-Intra 50 formats, and 160 minutes in other AVC-Intra 100 or DVCPRO HD formats. Recording times will double with the release of Panasonic's 64GB P2 card later this year.

The 11-pound, shoulder-mount camcorder has a specially-designed grip handle with five threaded holes for mounting accessories and a three-point locking viewfinder mount for easy adjustment (color viewfinder compatible). The VariCam 2700 is backed by Panasonic’s industry’s leading five-year limited warranty.

The AJ-HPX2700 will be available at a suggested list price of $39,995. A new color viewfinder, model AJ-CVF100, designed for both P2 HD VariCam camcorders, is planned to be released in early 2009.

www.panasonic.com/P2HD

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OWC Announces Industry's First External Blu-ray Drives with "Quad Interface"

Other World Computing (OWC), a leading Mac and PC technology company, announced today its new line of OWC Mercury Pro™ Blu-ray "Quad Interface" external drive solutions. The first Blu-ray external drives on the market offering a "Quad Interface" of FireWire 800, FireWire 400, USB 2.0, and eSATA, the OWC Mercury Pro drives feature 4X Blu-ray disc write speed for burning up to 1 gigabyte of data per minute; a data transfer rate up to 150MB per second; Plug and Play connection flexibility; and the convenience of compatibility with both Windows and Macintosh systems.

Burn up to 50GB per Blu-ray Disc and Read/Write to All Optical Media
Immediately available and priced starting at $499.99, the Mercury Pro Blu-ray external drive solutions are ideal for consumers with large amounts of High-Def or other video, photos, music, and data files that they want to archive or retrieve using optical media. Mercury Pro Blu-ray drives read and/or write virtually all optical media, including BD/BD-R, DVD/+/-R/RW, DVD-RAM, and CD-R/RW. The drives provide the well-known advantages of Blu-ray, such as high-capacity storage (burn up to 50GB per disc, enough space for a four hour High-Def movie); full high-quality HD Picture; and Surround Sound capabilities. In addition, the new OWC Mercury Pro Blu-ray drives now have write performance twice as fast as previous Mercury Pro Blu-ray external drive models.

Pricing for OWC Mercury Pro Blu-ray Write and Read external drive solutions:

  • OWC Mercury Pro SW-5583: $499.99. Writes and reads Blu-ray, DVD, DVD-RAM, CD-R/RW discs. Includes all connection cables and two 25GB BD-R discs.
  • OWC Mercury Pro SW-5583T: $579.99. Writes and reads Blu-ray, DVD, DVD-RAM, CD-R/RW discs. Includes all connection cables, starter media, and full retail version of Roxio Toast 9 Titanium (Mac OS X).
OWC Mercury Pro Blu-ray "Quad Interface" external drive solutions have been fully tested for compatibility with most Apple and Windows built-in and third party DVD/CD tools and players, including Apple iTunes, Apple Disc Burner, Apple iDVD 5, Apple DVD Studio Pro, EMC Retrospect Express, NTI DragonBurn, Roxio Toast, Roxio Easy Media Creator, and Nero Burning.

For more information on the OWC Mercury Pro Blu-ray external drive solutions, go to

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