The ATTO Express SAS R680 RAID Adaptor

The ExpressSAS R680 RAID adapter

By David Hurd

To effectively edit high-end HD projects, you need a RAID, which is just a bunch of hard drives working together to handle the huge amounts of video data that are being manipulated. If you are editing DV at 25 Mbits/sec you will have no worries as 25Mb divided by 8 bits per byte equals only a bit over 3MB/ sec which any hard drive can handle.

The problem comes up when you work with larger formats like the one recorded on Black Magic’s HyperDeck Shuttle. The full uncompressed 10 bit recording rate of 1264 Mb/sec or 158 MB/sec, is more than any regular hard drive is going to be able to deal with. An SSD can handle the speeds, but who can afford to own Terrabytes of SSDs?

What you are left with is SATA and SAS drive RAID arrays to process all of your data. A good word to learn at this point is “Enterprise Class”, which is the class of hard drives and computers that are made to run in servers 24/7, without breaking down.

This non-failure issue is important because a drive failure is always linked to increased stress, and sometimes to the loss of a client or job. The tighter the deadline, the faster this becomes evident. Granted, a RAID 5 configuration will allow the RAID to be rebuilt after replacing the guilty drive, but depending on the size of the RAID, this process can take hours, which is still bad when you are on a deadline.

I prefer the Seagate 15,000 RPM SAS drives. I have been using a set of 16 in CI Design cases for over 2 years now, and a case of 8 of them for the prior 3 years with no problems ever.

They need a controller card, and I have been using the same ATTO R380 card for about 5 years. It has seen me through two sets of drives, and 3 MacPro computers, so I can truthfully say that ATTO makes a great SAS controller.

Since the RAID information is stored on the drives, every time I switched computers, I just installed the ATTO card in the new computer, ran the software, and all of my RAID projects were ready to go.

This may not sound like a big deal, but the alternative is to off-load the 6TB of RAID data onto another RAID, then load it back after you have installed the RAID on the new computer. I actually have a GSpeed Q RAID, which is a great backup, but moving that much data takes a day or two, which is also bad if you are on a deadline.

The old standard for drives was 3Gb/sec, and the new standard is now 6Gb/sec, which is really nice. Since my 16 3Gb/sec drives still have a lot of life left in them, I decided to just upgrade my ATTO R380 to an ATTO R680.

This turned out to be a good idea. Even though my drives were 3Gb/sec, I saw a huge jump in speed with the 6Gb/sec ATTO R680. 1920×1080 10 bit uncompressed video writes data at 1043 MB/sec which is up from 750MB/sec, and reading increased from 1020 to 1380MB/sec. This allows me to edit over 12 layers of ProRes HQ at 220Mb/sec without dropping frames. Let’s take a look at why the ATTO R680 is worth owning.

The R680 RAID adapter provides 6Gb/s SAS/SATA connectivity to your Direct Attached Storage via 8 external ports via SAS 2.0, SAS, SATA II, or SATA connectivity.

With transfer rates of up to 1200MB/s per port, or a total of 9.6GB/s throughput in full-duplex mode, the R680 is well suited for high-bandwidth workflows, such as digital content creation, and streaming video and audio.

It supports RAID Levels 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 40, 50, 60 and DVRAID™, (an advanced RAID level for digital video environments), so it will handle any configuration that you could possibly want to create…at least up to 128 drives, but you will need the ATTO Express Power Center software for RAID 40, 50, or 60.

In this new paradigm of digital video content creation, with no tape back up available, the data is all that you have, and it needs to be protected…unless you like to do re-shoots.

The R680 combines advanced engineering and innovative features to ensure smooth data transfers and consistent performance, which helps you create, share and protect your data and digital assets more effectively.

The R680 has Windows®, Linux and Mac® OS X driver support, so it can go with you if you change computers.

It has 512MB memory, a 3-year standard product warranty, and really good tech support. Best of all, is their easy-to-use GUI-based configuration utility that is fast and easy to use, involving a very small learning curve.

 This card also uses Advanced Data Streaming (ADS™) Technology to controls the acceleration of data transfers to move large amounts of data faster and more efficiently. DriveAssure™ Technology that prevents premature drive failures to ensure uninterrupted access to data. CacheAssure™ Technology, which is an optional  protection module providing a maintenance-free solution that safeguards against the loss of cached data during a power or system failure. And my Favorite, the Data Recovery Mode that increases the probability of recovering data that is lost due to a disk failure and offline RAID group.

Overall, the ATTO R680 is a great choice for your SAS/SATA RAID controller.

MSRP: $1095

Contact: www.attotech.com

Sony FS100 Camera Review

The Sony NEX-FS100UK Camera

by David Hurd

 The Sony NEX-FS100UK camera is really an amazing piece of gear. After watching some  clips that were shot with this camera, I went out and purchased one. This is actually quite amazing, considering that my last five cameras were all Panasonics.

Sony FS100
Sony FS100

There are three reasons for my switch back to Sony. First, I like the fact that you can go full auto in a run and gun situation. It may not be something that you would normally do, but it’s good to have auto if you need it.

Secondly, I really like the lowlight capabilities of this camera. You can shoot indoors using only available light, by simply adding some gain. Usually, you wouldn’t want to do this to your image, but the Sony NEX-FS100UK Camera looks good… even with 18 DB of gain.

The third thing that I like about this camera is that you can load Varicam and 5D presets that mimic DSLRs, without all of the overheating, aliasing, and the limited recording times associated with DSLRs.

Like Slomo? You can get the extra versatility of slow and quick motion shooting by recording images at a different frame rate than you use for playback. The NEX-FS100 enables Full HD 1920×1080p slow and quick motion.

Then, by hitting a button, Last Scene Review lets you check the S&Q effects on-set, immediately after shooting the scene, without having to look through menus.

The NEX-FS100 can be configured for a wide range of shooting situations. To facilitate hand-held shooting, the angle of the handgrip can be positioned 360 degrees as desired, and the LCD Panel can rotate for left or right side operation. There are also 1/4- and 3/8-inch screw holes on both the handle and the camera body for mounting the camera, or attaching various peripheral devices.

The sharp, large and bright 3.5” XtraFine™ LCD/ Viewfinder can be rotated for stress-free operation from either side of the camera. For easier, more precise focusing, a large Viewfinder tube with 1.2x magnifier converts the LCD into a nice viewfinder.

If you want to upgrade your viewfinder, try the Small HD DP4-EVF. Its 4.3” monitor gives you a larger monitor, and the EVF magnification comes in really handy when doing HD work.

In addition, the Small HD DP4-EVF has some great tools included. For instance, I set up two presets. With the touch of one button, I have Peaking so that what is in focus gets bright edges around it. The second HML button lets me see my scene in terms of brightness. The highs, mids, and lows are all displayed in different colors, making it easy to adjust my lighting for maximum latitude.

The HDMI in and out connections allow me to connect one of my external recorders, or monitors, in line with the DP4-EVF.

The viewfinder that comes with the camera is nice, but the Small HD DP4-EVF is simply better.

The Sony NEX-FS100UK camera comes packaged with the Sony 18- 200 mm E-mount lens. It has precision-crafted optics with aspherical glass elements for compact high performance, and circular iris mechanisms for smooth background defocusing. This SEL18200 (E 18–200mm F3.5–6.3) lens has 11x zoom power, a quiet AF motor for cleaner sound recording, and Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilization for steady handheld shots while walking around. Even though the lowest f-stop is only f3.5 on this lens, you can still throw the background out of focus on telephoto shots.

In comparison to Panasonic’s AF100 camera, the FS100 lacks built-in ND filters, and I have heard a lot of people think that this is a problem. It is not. There is an easy workaround for this by means of a circular ND filter.

The Singh–Ray Vari-N-Duo, a variable ND and Polarizing filter works amazingly well on this camera. Consisting of two pieces of glass that spin independently of each other. The front filter controls the ND filtering, and the rear filter handles Polarization.

I find Singh-Ray’s Vari-Duo preferable to built in ND filters because by simply twisting the filter about an inch and a half, you can get from 2 2/3 up to 8 stops of ND. It’s actually faster than finding and turning an ND knob, and then fine-tuning with an Iris control.

The other ND filter that I tested is the Heliopan from Turbolight-Hedler USA. Since 1949 Heliopan has been manufacturing the finest quality German filters, and they are the only filter manufacturer that exclusively only uses glass from Schott (Zeiss).

Heliopan machines their filter rings from quality brass tubes and black anodizes and silk-screens them in their factories in Bavaria. The ND is variable from 1 to 6.6 stops. (ND 0.3 – ND 2.0) These filters are German engineering at it’s finest.

If you are like me, you are probably thinking, “I’ll bet it’s a lot of fun screwing those filters on and off every time you come indoors, or want to change lenses”… And you would be right. The good news is that you don’t have to go to all that trouble.

XUME Makes a filter holder that allows you to magically pop your filters on and off. One ring screws into the front of your lens, and the other ring screws onto your filter. As you bring the two together, you can feel the strong magnetic link. With a holder mounted onto the end of each of your lenses, you can easily move your ND filter from lens to lens.

Speaking of lenses, the lens adapters from Dot Line are an inexpensive way to properly mount non E-mount lenses. By using old Nikon lenses with a low f-stop, I was able to really control my depth of field. Inside a camera store I shot a close-up of my wife, and had the people standing 3 feet behind her completely out of focus.

By switching over to my Dot Line adapter for Canon lenses, I was able to use my Lens Baby with the wide-angle attachment. My lens baby is left over from my 5d review, and you wouldn’t normally think to try it on the FS100 camera, but it is actually pretty cool. By moving the lens, you can put various parts of the frame out of focus, which I found useful for imitating the POV of a stoned or sick person. It would also work well with music videos, or any time that you want some crazy-cool looking footage.

The FS100 features a Sony E-mount Interchangeable lens system, and a great variety of current and future E-mount lenses from various lens manufacturers (Sony Zeiss, Tamron, Sigma and Cosina) are compatible.

Thanks to its unusually shallow flange focal distance virtually any 35mm lens can be mounted via third-party adaptors, like the ones I get from Dot line.

You can also use the optional Sony LA-EA1 mount adaptor, and take advantage of the abundant “α” A-mount lenses that are available on the market.

Since I’m not fond of using cards, I bought the HXR-FMU128 Flash Memory unit, which is really slick. It’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and pops into the side of the camera, giving me continuous recording for over 10 hours.

Simultaneous recording using memory cards or an external recorder is also possible for when you are shooting footage that can’t be reshot.

The FS100 provides an HDMI Output with Embedded Time code, and pull down markers for 4:2:2 uncompressed digital output. I like to record to both the internal recorder, and an external recorder. That way I have a 25Mb/sec recording as well as a 220Mb/sec with the Ninja, or a 1280Mb/sec with the Hyperdeck Shuttle.

The Atomos Ninja recorder for ProRes recording is a10bit Production Weapon for HDMI-equipped cameras like the FS100.

Ninja preserves the pristine uncompressed video quality from the FS100s camera’s sensor, by encoding it directly into the Apple ProRes format in 422, LT or HQ. Then it goes straight to the timeline of your NLE.

It’s a fast, and high-quality workflow with just a few simple steps.

With your Ninja loaded with an SSD, you have instant, random (“Non-Linear”) access to your material, eliminating the need for log-and-capture using a standard capture card. Keep in mind that HDMI can’t support 24Fps, so the Ninja will record at 60Fps, and you can convert the footage on the way into your editing system.

You can edit right from the SSD drive in the Docking Station, and export a finished movie. However, be aware that the media is still only on your SSD, so you will want to copy your files to another drive before erasing your SSD.

My goal is to have my footage archived in at least 3 places.

My Thermaltake BlacX 5G Duet Docking Station will accept two 2,5 or 3.5 hard drives, so it’s easy to pop in a couple of raw drives (no case needed) and make two copies of my data. Another way is to pop in the SSD, and a second drive and make a copy of the SSD.

In addition, there is my Seagate SAS RAID, and GSpeedQ RAID for additional backups. With the FS100, the bad news is that you have to keep track of your data. The good news is that you don’t have to purchase or deal with videotape.

The Ninja arrives as a complete system, so you don’t have to add anything except a 2.5” SSD and some cables to suit your set-up like HDMI.

All other parts necessary to use the Ninja are included in a very nice carrying case. Luckily, SSD drives are Flash memory devices that come in the same form-factor as 2 ½ ” disk drives, and they are fully supported by the Ninja. The Crucial SSD drive that I use records 512 MB, which is much more space than the 112 MB that are available inside the camera using two 64 GB cards. When you have filled up an SSD, you simply pop it out and plug in another one, much like a giant P2 card.

The reason that you usually use SSD drives instead of regular 2 ½” HHD disk drives is that regular drives are particularly sensitive to motion. If you move too quickly while the drive is spinning, you may get a small gap in your recording. While 90% of your production work will most likely be OK on a standard drive, SSDs are the way to go while working in a challenging environment.

The Ninja’s standard one-year warranty on all parts and accessories is upgraded to three years on the Main Ninja Unit alone, (excluding TFT/LCD) by registering your Ninja online.

The Ninja mounts in the hot shoe on top of the camera, and provides a monitor for viewing and playing back your recordings.

The touch screen controls are very handy and easy to navigate. Changing codecs is as easy at touching the icon on the screen.

This product rocks on the FS100 camera. It is lightweight, portable, has built in SSD formatting, and the ability to plug in the Ninja directly into your editing computer for editing.

The touch screen monitor is easy to use, and recording is rock solid. Add in the fact that this device is less expensive than other similar ProRes HQ recorders, and you end up with a great value for your money.

If you like working in uncompressed, and have a RAID big and fast enough to handle the format, the HyperDeck Shuttle is for you.

You can also improve the quality of the FS100 with BlackMagic’s HyperDeck Shuttle. This time, the uncompressed signal from the FS100 is not compressed into AVCHD (24-28 Mbps) in the camera, or ProRes HQ (220 Mbs) in the Ninja, but rather is recorded in uncompressed 10bit HD (1280 Mbs) in the HyperDeck Shuttle. The camera is an 8bit camera, so there is a bit of waste recording at 10 bits, but hey…its Uncompressed.

Compression always destroys some image quality, so this is a great option if you need to get the most dynamic color range for color correction, and perfect, clean keying without jagged edges. The downside is finding storage space. My Crucial 512 GB SSD will only hold about an hours worth of data.

The HyperDeck Shuttle bypasses your camera’s compression and records from SDI or HDMI, in the universally compatible uncompressed QuickTime files. These files can be used with all popular software packages like Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Resolve and Apple Color.

Like the Ninja, you can edit directly from the SSD media itself, the difference is that you will need to pop the SSD out of the HyperDeck Shuttle, and use your own Docking Station to connect to your editing computer.

I use a Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking station. It works with all Standard 2.5” or 3.5” SATA /SSD to USB 3.0 for Transfer Rates up to 5Gbps. It is Compatible with SATA I / II / III & SSD HDDs. I use the latest Mac OSX, but it’s also compatible with Windows 7, Vista, XP 2003/2000. This model holds one drive at a time, so I can be editing on this docking station while its brother the 5G Duet, is making backup copies.

The HyperDeck Shuttle has standard deck style function buttons, clearly marked and easily accessible along one side, as well as LEDs that indicate recording status, battery status, and input signal lock. I find it very easy to use. It’s like operating a VTR.

Since this device has no built in monitor, you will need to buy a pair of SDI or HDMI cables. One cable will go from the FS100 into the HyperDeck Shuttle, and one will feed the signal out of the HyperDeck Shuttle to your monitor.

The HyperDeck Shuttle works well for a quick on-set QC or client preview. I either use my Plura PBM-070X 7” on-camera monitor with its built-in Waveform and Vectorscope, or my 2s2 17” monitor.

Connected to the HyperDeck Shuttle via HDMI or SDI cables, the uncompressed signal looks awesome. The Plura PBM-070X is great for indoors or camera mounted work, and my 2s2 monitor can be seen from 6 feet away with no hood, even outdoors in full sunlight.

The HyperDeck Shuttle is compact, and battery powered so it’s perfect as a field recorder. If you are looking for an affordable uncompressed 10bit recorder, look no further.

The downside of switching from my last video camera to this Cine style camera is that I lost the ability to have a servo zoom on my lens, but I found a nice workaround to fix this problem.

The Norbert, and Norbert Sport both work with the FS100, offering a rail system and a square metal cage to mount all of the accessories that you need for professional work.  My Norbert Sport usually holds either the Ninja, or my HyperDeck Shuttle recorder (mounted to one of K–Tec’s mounting plates) and my Plura, or Switt monitor.

Another couple of useful things to have is the SWIT Electronics S-8972 DV Lithium-ion battery and their S-2010 on-camera light. The battery is about twice the size of the one that comes with the camera, and has a receptacle that the light plugs into. Since the light only pulls 12 watts from the battery while delivering 40 watts of light, you can power both your light and camera with just one battery. An added bonus is that the light can mount on Norbert as well.

I mount a Petroff Mini Follow focus on the rails of my Norbert to control my zoom lens, and a JBK Cinequip Follow focus to actually focus with. It’s really nice to not have to twist the lens for zoom and focus control. I find that having two controls make it faster and easier to control the zoom and focus without bumping the lens.

Both the Petroff Mini, and the JBK are very well made, and are reversible for use with Nikon, and other lenses that focus in the opposite direction.

The JBK has a tiny bit of play whereas the Petroff has almost none. Neither are sloppy, and both have white marking rings that you can use to keep track of your shot. For serious work, you will need a solid Follow focus, and these are both great units.

Another tool that I find handy is the K–Tec Monopod. It’s actually a very strong carbon fiber boom pole that goes a long way to supporting the weight of my rig, and offering the stability I need when I am not carrying my Tripod.

If I ever need to shoot over the heads of a crowd, I can set the camera to auto, use the Monopod at full extension, and monitor what I’m shooting via the Switt or Small HD attached at eye level to the Monopod. The Monopod is just a handy little device.

I use a carry-on case for my cameras when flying, and SKB makes a perfect little case for the FS100, and it’s called the 3i-1914-8B-D. It is Military-standard Injection molded, with a foam liner and adjustable panels. The movable panels make it easy to re-configure as you add new gear. The cool part is that it comes with wheels and a pull out handle, so it looks like an ordinary carry-on, yet it has military grade strength, and it’s waterproof. This SKB case will help your camera arrive alive.

The FS100 is truly an amazing camera, offering you a huge amount of latitude in your workflow. You can record for more than 10 hours, or use some prime lenses and an external recorder to record pristine, uncompressed HD for high-end productions. The Super 35 sensor is awesome, and this camera just rocks.

MSRP: Sony FS100 $6550.

Contact: www.pro.sony.com/sonynex-fs100

MSRP: Atomos Ninja $999.95

Contact: www.atomos.com/wheretobuy/#usa

MSRP: HyperDeck Shuttle $349

Contact: www.blackmagic-design.com

MSRP: Crucial 512 GB SSD $700

Contact: www.crucial.com

MSRP: Small HD DP4-EVF $749

Contact: www.smallhd.com

MSRP: Thermaltake BlacX Docking Station $49.99, BlacX Duet 5G Docking Station $69.99

Contact: www.thermaltake.com

MSRP: SWIT Electronics S-8972 DV Lithium-ion battery $99

S-2010 on-camera light about $280

Contact: www.swit.us

MSRP: SKB Cases 3i-1914-8B-D $384.99 street price about $220.

Contact: Steve Sanderson 800.783.0087 or www.skbcases.com

MSRP: 2s2 17” Monitor MMR-B170w.V098.LAR1817.16 $4253 Special for P3 readers $3828

Contact: www.2s2.com

MSRP: Plura Monitors PBM-070X $2500

Contact: www.plurabroadcast.com

MSRP: Dotline Corp (Lens adaptors) Nikon to E-mount $63

Contact: www.dotlinecorp.com

MSRP: Heliopan Circular 67mm ND filter $352

Contact: Turbolight-Hedler USA www.hedlerusa.com

MSRP: Singh-Ray Circular 77mm Vari-Duo ND filter $440

Contact: www.singh-ray.com

MSRP: Petroff Mini Follow Focus $1230

Contact: www.petroff.ws

MSRP: JBK FF209HD Follow Focus $425

Contact: www.jbkcinequipt.com

Sony FS100 Camera Accessories from Berkey System

I wanted a small and compact package, and this set-up allowed me to mount my DP4 electronic viewfinder, with my Ninja ProRes, or Black Magic uncompressed recorder without making my rig too big. The cool thing is that as I change my rig, I will have places to mount my new accessories. You can even mount a camera handle or iris rods above your lens.

The Baseplate and rods are also a very lightweight, yet solid system. Also, the camera mounting plate may be moved forward or back, to aid you in balancing your camera. This is really helpful if you are using a large lens, or a rear mounted battery or accessories.

The FS 100 base plate has rod height adjustment that can accommodate just about any lens, follow focus, or matte box. The bottom plate is drilled and tapped to allow you to add their Cross Clamp for creating a cage, or adding additional handles or other accessories.

Since I use both a JBK Cinequip and a Petroff follow focus for focus and zoom control I found that some other rod systems couldn’t take the pressure exerted by the follow focus against the lens, resulting in slippage. The Berkey System was rock solid with every accessory that I tested it with.

The Accessory Mounting Plate Is well designed so that you have access to all of your camera control buttons. It only takes a minute or two to mount the plate to the two 1/4–20 holes on the top of the camera body, plus the 1/4–20 hole on the hot shoe, resulting in a very solid platform on which to mount your accessories.

Good Cine gear is never cheap, but Berkey System offers a good value for your money. It is well designed, and very accurately machined in the USA. It’s a great American product.

©2011 David Hurd

 

Review of the Panasonic AG-AF100 and useful accessories

If you are shooting with an HVX200 or a DSLR you might want to take a look at Panasonic’s HD camcorder. The AG-AF100, is the first professional micro 4/3-inch video camcorder optimized for high-definition video recording, and it has some advantages over an HVX 200, or DSLR.

If you have a HVX 200, there will be a lot of features that you are used to. The AF100 has about the same body size as the HVX 200 and a similar menu, time code recording, built-in ND filtering, a built-in stereo microphone, presets, color balance, etc…

The two XLR inputs with +48V Phantom Power capability, and 48-kHz/16-bit two-channel digital audio recordingare also about the same, except that the AF100 supports LPCM/Dolby-AC3 audio.

There is also built in Iris control, and if you have a Varizoom controller left over from your HVX200, the Iris, Focus, and Record buttons will work on the AF100 as well. However, since there is no servo zoom on the camera, the zoom control has no job to do, and can take the day off.

The AF100 is very flexible, and that excites me. The first cool thing about the AF100 is that you can change lenses. The 14 to 140 mm zoom works pretty well for most applications, but you can use older SLR lenses that have an iris control on them, or even primes for cine work.

I tried a 20mm f1.4 lens, which worked well indoors with available light. Since old SLR lenses are inexpensive, I also tried a Dotline Corp. micro 4/3 adapter and Nikon Nikkor Ai lenses to get a really nice look for not a lot of money.

If you are a DSLR owner, the reason to upgrade to this camera is the micro 4/3-inch, 16:9 MOSimager. With its dramatically reduced video aliasing, the AF100 delivers the shallow depth of field, and wider field of view of a DSLR large imager, with professional HDMIand HD-SDI outputs that can connect to external recorders or monitors.

Thiscamcorder records 1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p (native) and 720/60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p (native) in AVCHD’s highest-quality PH mode (maximum 24Mbps) codec. It is 60Hz and 50Hz switchable for use worldwide.

Part of the AF100’s charm is its vast recording ability. The built-in AVCHD recorder can record a full native 1080/24p or 720/24p recording, at variable frame rates, with professional audio capabilities, to SDHC and SDXC media (which supports memory capacities from 32GB to 2TB).

With two SD slots, the AF100 can record up to 12 hours on two 64GB SDXC cards in PH mode. The built in recorder is fine, and very handy, but the true capabilities of this camera are found in external recorders.

The Atomos Ninja recorder for ProRes recording is a10bit Production Weapon for HDMI-equipped cameras like the AF100.

Ninja preserves the pristine uncompressed video quality from the AF100s camera’s sensor, by encoding it directly into the Apple ProRes format in 422, LT or HQ. Then it goes straight to the timeline of your NLE.

It’s a fast, and high-quality workflow with just a few simple steps.

First, connect the Ninja Docking Station (which is included in the kit) to your Apple Mac using the Firewire 800 port (USB 2.0 will also work). Insert the Ninja Master Caddy containing the SSD with your footage into the Docking Station, and you will see the drive appear in your Finder window.

Start FCP and open your project (or start a new one).Go to the File menu and select Import > folderso that FCP will show you a “browse” window. Look for the Ninja drive, and click on it so you can see the folders in the Ninja drive.

Select the folder containing the footage you want to import and click on Choose, and go back to your FCP project window.

Your Scene, Shot and Take folders now appear in the project window, ready for use in your FCP project.

With your Ninja loaded with an SSD, you have instant, random (“Non-Linear”) access to your material, eliminating the need for log-and-capture using a standard capture card. Keep in mind that HDMI can’t support 24Fps, so the Ninja will record at 60Fps, and you can convert the footage on the way into your editing system.

You can edit right from the SSD drive in the Docking Station, and export a finished movie. However, be aware that the media is still only on your SSD, so you will want to copy your files to another drive before erasing your SSD.

My goal is to have my footage archived in at least 3 places.

My Thermaltake BlacX 5G Duet Docking Station will accept two 2,5 or 3.5 hard drives, so it’s easy to pop in a couple of raw drives (no case needed) and make two copies of my data. Another way is to pop in the SSD, and a second drive and make a copy of the SSD.

In addition, there is my Seagate SAS RAID, and GSpeedQ RAID for additional backups. With the AF100, the bad news is that you have to keep track of your data, the good news is that you don’t have to purchase or deal with videotape.

The Ninja arrives as a complete system, so you don’t have to add anything except a 2.5” SSD and some cables to suit your set-up like HDMI.

All other parts necessary to use the Ninja are included in a very nice carrying case.

Disk drive data rates tend to be given in megaBYTES (MBps) per second, and codec data rates are normally given in megaBITS (Mbps) per second. All you have to do to convert megabits to megabytes is divide by 8.

So if you set the Ninja to record at 220 megaBITS per second, instead of the AF100’s AVCHD’s highest-quality PH mode (maximum 24Mbps), that’s going to result in 220/8 megaBYTES per second, which is 27.5 megaBYTES per second. This takes up some memory.

Luckily, SSD drives are Flash memory devices that come in the same form-factor as 2 ½ ” disk drives, and they are fully supported by the Ninja. The Crucial SSD drive that I use records 512 MB, which is much more space than the 112 MB that are available inside the camera using two 64 GB cards. When you have filled up an SSD, you simply pop it out and plug in another one, much like a giant P2 card.

The reason that you use SSD drives instead of regular 2 ½” HHD disk drives is that regular drives are particularly sensitive to motion. If you move too quickly while the drive is spinning, you may get a small gap in your recording. While 90% of your production work will most likely be OK on a standard drive, SSDs are the way to go while working in a challenging environment.

The Ninja’s standard one year warranty on all parts and accessories is upgraded to three years on the Main Ninja Unit alone, (excluding TFT/LCD) by registering your Ninja online.

The Ninja mounts in the hot shoe on top of the camera, and provides a monitor for viewing and playing back your recordings.

The touch screen controls are very handy and easy to navigate. Changing codecs is as easy at touching the icon on the screen.

This product rocks on the AF100 camera. It is lightweight, portable, has built in SSD formatting, and the ability to plug in the Ninja directly into your editing computer for editing.

The touch screen monitor is easy to use, and recording is rock solid. Add in the fact that this device is less expensive than other similar ProRes HQ recorders, and you end up with a great value for your money.

If you like working in uncompressed, and have a RAID big and fast enough to handle the format, the HyperDeck Shuttle is for you.

You can also improve the quality of the AF100 with BlackMagic’s HyperDeck Shuttle. This time the uncompressed signal from the AF100 is not compressed into AVCHD (24 Mbps)in the camera, or ProRes HQ (220 Mbs) in the Ninja, but rather is recorded in uncompressed 10 bit HD(1280 Mbs) in the HyperDeck Shuttle. The camera is an 8 bit camera, so there is a bit of waste recording at 10 bits, but hey…its Uncompressed.

Compression always destroys some image quality, so this is a great option if you need to get the most dynamic color range for color correction, and perfect, clean keying without jagged edges. The downside is finding storage space. My Crucial 512 GB SSD will only hold about an hours worth of data.

The HyperDeck Shuttle bypasses your camera’s compression and records from SDI or HDMI, in the universally compatible uncompressed QuickTime files. These files can be used with all popular software packages like Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Resolve and Apple Color.

Like the Ninja, you can edit directly from the SSD media itself, the difference is that you will need to pop the SSD out of the HyperDeck Shuttle, and use your own Docking Station to connect to your editing computer.

I use a Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking station. It works with all Standard 2.5” or 3.5” SATA /SSD to USB 3.0 for Transfer Rates up to 5Gbps. It is Compatible with SATA I / II / III & SSD HDDs. I use the latest Mac OSX, but it’s also compatible with Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2003 / 2000. This model holds one drive at a time, so I can be editing on this docking station while its brother the 5G Duet, is making backup copies.

The HyperDeck Shuttle has standard deck style function buttons, clearly marked and easily accessible along one side, as well as LEDs that indicate recording status, battery status, and input signal lock. I find it very easy to use. It’s like operating a VTR.

Since this device has no built in monitor, you will need to buy a pair of SDI or HDMI cables. One cable will go from the AF100 into the HyperDeck Shuttle, and one will feed the signal out of the HyperDeck Shuttle to your monitor.

The HyperDeck Shuttle works well for a quick on-set QC or client preview. I either use my Plura PBM-070X7” on-camera monitor with its built-in Waveform and Vectorscope, or my 2s2 17” monitor.

Connected to the HyperDeck Shuttle via HDMI or SDI cables, the uncompressed signal looks awesome. The Plura PBM-070Xis great for indoors or camera mounted work, and 2s2 monitor can be seen from 6 feet away with no hood, even outdoors in full sunlight.

The HyperDeck Shuttle is compact, and battery powered so it’s perfect as a field recorder. If you are looking for an affordable uncompressed 10bit recorder, look no further.

Here are some other helpful accessories that you might find useful.

The AF100’s ability allows you to choose a focus point within your depth of field. The problem is that you must see what you are shooting very clearly to make good focus decisions. I had a hard time with fine focus using the built in viewfinder, so I tried something else.

I used a Zacuto EVF Flip, which is a 3.2” high-resolution monitor connected to a Z-Finder, which is an eyepiece with magnification.

The result is a perfectly clear view of what the camera sees.

When mounted to a 15mm rod system, you can move this viewfinder where it most comfortable for you to use.

You can also use an arm for low mode shooting, or a long cable when detached from your rig for dolly, crane, or car shots.

The EVF is compatible with all cameras that have an HDMI output including the Panasonic AF-100, Sony F3, RED ONE, RED Scarlet and RED Epic.

The EVF Flip has a Z-Finder frame built into the unit that can be flipped open to 180 degrees. You just flip up the Z-Finder eyepiece to show a producer or director the shot without having to have them get their eye in your viewfinder.

Zacuto gear is the Roll Royce of support systems. They cost more, but they are made to last, and have a solid feel to them. The EVF Rod Mount arm that connects the EVF Flip to the rods is so strong that it stays in place when you push against the viewfinder…there is nothing cheesy here.

The Zacuto EVF Flip with a Z-Finder is just an amazing addition to the AF100.

I also tried their EVF Filmmaker Kit with great results. With their Z-Focus follow focus system, a single knob allows you to disengage the gears when you change lenses, making the job painless.

You could probably pound nails with the Baseplate, but it securely holds your camera on the top, and has a separate, sliding mount on the bottom for your tripod plate to aid in balancing your rig.

The ZipGear Prime Lens Kit (set of lens gears) lets you easily wrap the focus rings on your lenses with a strip of gear material to use with the follow focus.

The two Zgrips Beefy handles are infinitely adjustable so that you can set the grip length and position to where you feel most comfortable for a stable and balanced AF100 rig.

The Zwiss Plate cheese plate on the back of the rig allows you to mount virtually anything with the provided 1/4 20″ and 3/8 16″ holes, including batteries. You also get your choice of a V-Mount, or 3-Stud battery plate allowing you to mount your pro batteries for counterbalance.

In summation, true to its name, the EVF Filmmaker Kit gives you the tools that you need to turn the AF100 into a very usable film style camera.

The LitePanels MicroPro Hybrid on-camera light works well with the AF100. Six, AA batteries power it for hours, and it has enough power to add Fill, or become a Key light for an interview.

Since the AF100 does so well in low light with a fast lens, you can even take the MicroPro Hybrid off of the camera, and use it like a studio light.

Being a Hybrid, it also works as a flash for your DSLR.

The LitePanels MicroPro Hybrid is a great little addition to your rig.

I am not one to trust something as delicate as an AF100 to the baggage monkeys that seem to inhabit most airports, which means that I use a carry-on case for my cameras.

SKB makes a perfect little case for the AF100, and it’s called the 3i-1914-8B-D. It is Military-standard Injection molded, with a foam liner and adjustable panels. The movable panels make it easy to re-configure as you add new gear. The cool part is that it comes with wheels and a pull out handle, so it looks like an ordinary carry-on, yet it has military grade strength, and it’s waterproof. This SKB case will help your camera arrive alive.

I find it amazing that the AF100 can go from web video, to ProRes, to high end, uncompressed 1080p by simply using external recorders to leverage its pristine micro 4/3 sensor.

The same holds true for lenses. With adaptors, you can mount anything from old $50 SLR lenses, to $12,000 primes.

The AF100 is truly a shining example of an adaptable camera whose time has come.

MSRP: Panasonic AF100 Street price about $4500.

Contact: http://www.panasonic.com

MSRP: Atomos Ninja $999.95

Contact: http://www.atomos.com/wheretobuy/#usa

MSRP: HyperDeck Shuttle $349

Contact: http://www.blackmagic-design.com

MSRP: Crucial 512 GB SSD $700

Contact: http://www.crucial.com

MSRP: Zacuto EVF Filmmaker Kit $4052.50

Contact: http://www.zacuto.com

MSRP: Thermaltake BlacX Docking Station $49.99, BlacX Duet 5G Docking Station $69.99

Contact: http://www.thermaltake.com

MSRP:LitePanels MicroPro Hybrid Street price about $475.

Contact: http://www.litepanels.com

MSRP: SKB Cases 3i-1914-8B-D $384.99 street price about $220.

Contact: Steve Sanderson 800.783.0087 or http://www.skbcases.com

MSRP: 2s2 17” Monitor MMR-B170w.V098.LAR1817.16 $4253 Special for P3 readers $3828

Contact: http://www.2s2.com

The DaVinci Resolve for Mac Review

Since 1984, the DaVinci has been the premier color corrector for major motion pictures. While it was awesome, the $500,000+ price tag made it impossible for the small shop. The good news is that Blackmagic Design purchased the company, and released the DaVinci Resolve for Mac at a price that is truly affordable.

Depending upon your configuration, the “Resolve” system consists of five or six components, not including monitors.

You start with a Mac Pro, and in this case, bigger is better. Silverado Systems, an Apple systems integrator located in Folsom, California, told me that the tests they ran showed that the Resolve used all 12 cores of a Mac Pro fully and evenly. You can use a smaller, slower Mac Pro, but the amount of “nodes” that you can use in real time will be less. The first system that I tried was a Mac Pro 2.26 GHz eight core. It worked fine for HD work, but would probably be slow for 2K work…

I bought the 12 core 2.93 GHz Mac Pro from Silverado Systems, and added 24 GB of RAM from LifetimeMemory.com as it works well, and it’s a lot cheaper than buying it from Apple. This pretty much handled the first component needed to complete my Resolve system.

The second component that you need is a Blackmagic Decklink HD Extreme 3D card. At the moment, this is the only card that will work with the system. I put it in slot number three, where it seems to be happy. I use the SDI output to power my 17 inch TV logic reference monitor that has been giving me true images for over two years now.

I also use a larger 24 inch 2s2 reference monitor which is plugged into the HDMI output of the Blackmagic card. 2s2 makes some great stuff, and between the two monitors I can get pretty good idea of what my final images will look like.

Another popular addition would be a Panasonic 50 inch plasma monitor, calibrated to be as true as possible. This option allows you to take advantage of the blacker blacks that plasma monitors are known for.

The third thing that you’ll need is a graphics card for your monitor. This card will only be used by your monitor and not for processing. Silverado Systems supplied me with an NVIDIA GeForce 120 card. This card works well because it has no Cuda cores, which is what you want for your monitor.

Evidently, you only want graphics cards that use CUDA technology for the processing part of your system, not for the monitor, as the software will try to use every Cuda core that it can find, and get confused.

Now, for more graphics weirdness. Normally, your graphics card would go in slot 1. If Apple would give us what we need, which is four, 16 X slots, life would be good. Since the two, 16 X slots in the system are needed for other components, my GeForce 120 card is installed in slot 4, which is only a 4X slot. Amazingly, this powers my single Eizo 24 inch monitor at full resolution, without any problems.

While I’m here, I might as well talk about your computer monitor. My Eizo ColorEdge CG243W has great color, which really helps to accurately select colors in the Resolve system. Since selecting areas to change is a huge part of your workload, it’s important to have a good monitor. Another advantage to this particular monitor is that it can also be calibrated for various types of Photoshop work.

Resolve uses CUDA core technology to enhance graphics processing for real-time viewing, and this brings us to our fourth component. I used an NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac professional graphics card with my smaller system, and two of them with my 12 core Mac Pro. Each of the Quadro 4000 cards has about 256 cores, so two of them give you 512 cores to help with your graphics processing.

Graphics processing units (GPU’s) are not the same as the CPU cores in your computer. From what I’ve been hearing, five CUDA cores roughly equal one CPU core. Since my 12 core Mac Pro actually has 24 virtual cores, the 512 CUDA cores should speed up the processing by a factor of 20, making 2K real-time playback a reality. This brings us to the fifth component of the Resolve for Mac.

The fifth component is an optional bus extender box from Cubix that will hold your extra NVIDIA cards. Since the Mac Pro only has four slots, you will need this if you wish to use more than one Quadro 4000 card. I used the GPU-Xpander Desktop 2 that holds two cards. It comes with its own power supply, and the power cables needed to power the cards.

The GPU-Xpander Desktop 2 consists of two components. The actual box with fans and a power supply, and the card that plugs into slot 2, which is a 16 X slot. A cable connects the box to the card making for an easy set up.

The GPU-Xpander Desktop 2 is thoroughly professional. It has a solid metal case, power cables for the Quadro 4000 cards, and even a locking system for both the front and back of the cards. It has fans to cool the Quadro 4000 cards, which run pretty hot, and four LED lights on the front of the case that let you know everything is running properly.

Mine sits right on top of my Mac Pro, and although the fans aren’t silent, they are not annoying either. The GPU-Xpander Desktop 2 is just a great piece of gear that also accelerates Adobe CS 5.5, but that’s another story.

The sixth and last component is important if you want to do high-definition or 2K work. This is your RAID system. I use an ATTO R380 SAS controller card, connected to 16 Seagate SAS drives in two CI design cases. This allows me to write data at about 850 MB per second. According to Apple, the ATTO R380 SAS controller card should be installed in slot 1, which is the other 16 X slot.

The DaVinci Resolve for Mac system will work at this point, but there is another product that will make your life much easier. This is the Wave controller from Tangent. At under $1600, it gives you many of the controls of the $30,000 DaVinci controller that is available from Blackmagic. I found that having knobs, dials, and trackballs for everything was a lot easier than using my mouse. The playback controls are also very helpful, allowing you to jump from clip to clip, or frame to frame.

I have been reviewing products for over 10 years now, and I’ve got to tell you, that the DaVinci Resolve for Mac has got to be the coolest product that I have ever reviewed.

The Resolve is so quick and powerful that it just amazes me. I took their test footage of several motorcyclists riding up a winding mountain road. The second rider was wearing a white T-shirt, and was sometimes hidden by the first rider. I decided to change the color of his T-shirt, and track it throughout the clip. Since the riders were in constant motion, this would normally take some time.

Let me tell you how easy this was to do using DaVinci Resolve for Mac. First, I had to Shuttle over to the middle of the clip so that I could reach a point where the shirt was visible. Next, I hit a power window button, and used my mouse to position it over the white T-shirt. Then, using the zoom, aspect, and softness controls I sized the Power window to fit the shirt.

Now that I had the work area selected I hit an HSL qualifier button, and sampled the color of the shirt.

The highlight button allowed me to see what I had selected. Hitting the forward track button tracked the shirt to the end of the clip, and the reverse button tracked it back to the beginning of the clip. Tracking only took a few seconds.

For fun, I gave the macho biker a pink T-shirt by simply rolling the Mid Range trackball toward pink. The whole thing took less than a minute, and played back in real-time. How cool is that?

Another of the test clips has a parrot in a wooded green park with a waterfall and a washed out sky. An HSL qualifier button, and a trackball turned the washed out sky to a pleasant blue. Another qualifier controlled the lushness of the greens, which could be shifted toward red orange to make the summer clip look like it had been shot in autumn.

With the low, mid, and highlight controls you can precisely control only the part of your image that needs work, without affecting everything else. The power windows mark the area that will be affected, and the qualifiers are used as fine-tuning selectors.

All of these controls have sub controls that allow you to select precisely what you need to correct.

There are also blur and mist controls that will blur or soften whatever you select.

How many of us have had to edit a bald guy who had a Specular highlight on the top of his head. Using DaVinci, this is not a problem. Simply select the highlight and dim it down to match the rest of his head… Problem solved.

DaVinci can do so many wonderful things that I could write a book about it. Luckily someone else has already done that, and it’s available on Amazon.com

The Color Correction Handbook: Professional Techniques for Video and Cinema by Alexis Van Hurkman. The Kindle for Mac is free, and the E-Book is well worth the money.

If you think this is cool, you are really going to like the new update. Blackmagic showed version 8 of the Resolve software at NAB this year. It will have much better conform options, a multilayer timeline, image stabilization, and better grading tools. It will also have the ability to conform 5D/7D footage. Final Cut Pro XML support will be also be included, which will make it easier for Final Cut Pro users. Oh, and the update to version 8 is free. Nice!

DaVinci Resolve for Mac is just awesome. It allows you to fix rough looking footage, and turn good-looking images into great-looking images. Maybe it’s time to take your production to the next level.

 

MSRP: Da Vinci Resolve Software $995

Blackmagic Decklink HD Extreme 3D card $995

Contact: http://www.blackmagic–design.com

 

MSRP: Cubix GPU-Xpander 2 $1900

Contact: http://www.cubixgpu.com

 

MSRP: NVIDIA Quadro 4000 professional graphics card $1199 each

Contact: http://www.Nvidia.com/quadro

 

10 Things that you need to know about being on camera

Over the last 35 years I have worked with everyone from Presidents, and heads of large corporations, to professional actors and newbies who have never been in front of the camera before. Since time is money, it is in everyone’s best interest to make the shoot go as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Here are 10 things that will make your shoot go easier, and actually allow you to enjoy yourself.

1. Stay away from wearing herringbone patterns, whites, bright colors, and anything that is the color of your blue or green screen. This will avoid problems with the camera capturing your performance. Pastels are best, as they allow your face to be the brightest thing on the screen, which is where you want your audiences attention. Also, leave your noisy jewelry and starched shirts at home unless you want to hear tinkling metal and crackling sounds in your audio.

2. Hydrate your body and avoid caffeine, nicotine, stimulants, painkillers and alcohol, as these will result in dry mouth, shakiness, or droopy-eyes syndrome. You don’t want to look like a nervous Chihuahua, or drunk/ stoned person with your eyes half closed.

3. Get a good nights sleep on the night before your shoot to avoid having bags under your eyes, and have a good breakfast with protein so that your brain has what it needs to function properly. Try to reduce your stress levels by allowing plenty of time to get to the shoot, and try to remain relaxed once you get there. When you are safely on the set, remember to turn off your cell phone, so that it doesn’t ring in the middle of your performance.

4. Know that people are going to be touching you. The audio guy will be wiring you with a microphone, makeup would be doing their thing, and sometimes someone will be moving you into the correct position. Freaking out will only mark you as an amateur, and make everyone’s job more difficult. Just relax and go with the flow.

5. If you are using a Teleprompter and wish to add-lib, tell your Teleprompter operator to stop scrolling when you leave the script, and to start scrolling again when you come back to the script. This will allow you the freedom to add to the script without making the prompter operator crazy. Be sure to check with the director before doing this, or they will be stopping every time that you leave the script.

6. This is supposed to be fun, so smile and enjoy the process. The director will be looking at your energy level, and you might feel like a grinning idiot while giving a performance that results in a recorded image that just looks normal. Try to be a dynamic person, and imagine your energy flowing out of you, carrying your message to the camera. It is also helpful to rehearse this way in front of a mirror, and then family members to build your confidence before the shoot.

7. Try to be yourself so that your facial expressions and energy levels will match what you are talking about. Smiles for happy content, a serious look for serious content, and even a sad look for sad content.

Try to keep the energy in your delivery cranked up, no matter what type of content you are delivering. Be interesting, powerful and informative, with your body language and facial expressions in sync with your content.

8. Relax, your brain can’t worry about your performance and remember your lines at the same time. Also, most people cannot keep their emotions out of their eyes and face, so just be as confident and relaxed as you would be speaking your lines to a friend. It’s only television, not life-and-death. You can do this.

9. Know that even most professional actors don’t get it right in one take, so don’t let multiple takes freak you out. With a newbie, I generally consider the first 30 min. to be throw-away video. The way to beat your fear is to relax, which is what must happen to get a usable performance. The longer it takes you to relax, the longer you are going to be there, and the more stressful everything is going to be as you run out of time.

10. Sometimes the director will playback some of your footage to show you what you are doing. Just remember that most newbies, and even some professional actors, hate the way that they look on camera, so don’t let this worry you. If it is truly bad, the director will tell you, so you need to trust them on this… and just relax and have fun.

 

 

Review of the NVIDIA Quadro 4000

We are lucky to be living in such a wonderful age. Using visual effects, we can create just about anything using nothing but computers, and our imagination. This process can be fun and easy, or difficult, depending upon the tools that are available to us.

Since the days of the old 8086 processors, the number of computer cores has risen. My “Review “machine is a 12 core Mac that offers 24 cores via multi threading that accesses the 12 virtual cores as well. That may sound like a lot, but it’s only part of the picture.

The invention of CUDA technology has transformed professional graphics by offering a bunch of additional graphics processing cores or GPU’s. Now, instead of adding more CPUs, we just add more GPUs. What is so awesome about this is that you can transform your workflow with advanced visualization, and up to eight times faster performance using NVIDIA’s Quadro 4000 card. Each card adds about 250 CUDA GPU cores, which really speed things up. How you might ask?

With its fast 64-bit double precision floating-point capabilities to ensure the accuracy of your results, A Quadro 4000 card can process up to 890 million triangles per second. This allows you to not only work faster, but to deliver higher-quality results in less time.

The good news is that CUDA fever seems to be taking hold in our industry.

Because of the power of CUDA parallel processing, more and more software developers are using it, and I believe that we will see many more programs convert to this technology in the future. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a huge increase in the speed of their production software? Time is money, so faster is better.

If you want to gain even more power, you can add more than one Quadro 4000 card to your system via a bus expander such as the Cubix box. I use a Cubix bus expander card in slot 2 of my Mac Pro, which sends data up a cable to be processed by two 4000 cards in the external Cubix box. This gives me 500 CUDA processing cores, which will handle anything thrown at it by my Da Vinci Resolve for Mac, or Adobe software.

Even though you may think that these cards seem expensive, I have found that the Quadro 4000 cards are actually a cost-effective way to achieve high performance. Allow me to explain.

My computer’s GPUs are about five times as powerful as the Quadro 4000’s CPUs. If you do the math, my 500 GPU cores are roughly equivalent to adding 100 CPU cores to my system. Is not the exact equivalent, but you get the idea. Two Quadro 4000 cards at under $2000 with the Cubix box at about the same money, are much less expensive than adding five more Mac pros at cost of over $30,000.

The only downside of these cards is that they run a bit hot, so you will have to listen to the fan on your Mac Pro. It’s a small trade off, and most high-performance hardware is a bit on the noisy side anyway, so you’re probably used to it by now.

Technically speaking the Quadro 4000 card has some amazing features. The high dynamic range sets new standards for image clarity and quality because of its floating-point capabilities. This means that all of the shading, filtering, texturing, and blending of your visual effects processing will be improved. You will also be able to see it better as well.

The clarity of your display image is also enhanced by the 4000’s ability to connect to your monitor via dual link DVI-I at up to 3840 x 2400 resolution at 24 Hz. You can also use a 2560 x 1600 resolution at 60 Hz, via DVI-I or HDMI. The 30bit color fidelity at 10 bits per color, allows you to work in BILLIONS of colors rather than millions of colors, for a rich and vivid image that has the broadest dynamic range.

Are you a broadcaster? When it comes to output, the Quadro 4000 digital video pipeline is the industry’s only GPU accelerated workflow for real-time acquisition, processing, and delivery of high-resolution SDI video across both traditional and 3-D video broadcasts. It supports 8, 10, and 12bit SDI via the optional Quadro 4000 SDI Capture and Output cards. Some of these features are Windows only but will work on Mac using Boot Camp.

As you can see, NVIDIA’s Quadro 4000 card can help you in a lot of ways. It can be used to enhance the image on your displays while you are editing, as well as cutting down on your render times. It can even help you to accelerate your broadcast capabilities. All in all, NVIDIA’s Quadro 4000 card is a pretty amazing addition to anyone’s system.

MSRP: Street price under $1000

Contact: http://www.nvidia.com

Hollywood Camera Work and Mocha Pro… Or Do You Really Need to go to Film School?

Per Holmes, the creator of HCW and I have had long discussions over the need for most aspiring filmmakers to attend a film school. A degree in film, for the most part, doesn’t really mean much to most production company owners, and since the industry is so difficult to get into, the $60,000+ cost is more than most graduates will ever have a chance to make in the business.

What actually gets you hired is a good reel of your past work, and an impressive set of production skills.

I hired a few of my students while I was teaching part time, and found that it took about a year for them to function efficiently in the “Real world”.

I believe that this is the answer. Work as a free intern, and spend the $60,000 on your own HD camera, editor, light and audio packages. In 3 to 4 years, instead of a piece of paper, you will have a reel that you actually can impress someone with, a set of useful skills, and 3 to 4 years of valuable experience.

When I was teaching, my classes cost my students about $1600 per course, which is about the same money as 3 years of http://www.lynda.com tutorials, and all three of HCW’s high end tutorials. Trust me, Lynda.com tutorials are great for learning editing, and the HWC products educate you on “How to be a great Director”, much better than my 4 year college ever did.

Per’s first course, The Master Course In High-End Blocking & Staging is a very comprehensive Directing Course. This course teaches high-end camera work using over 9 hours of 3D animated instruction on 6 DVDs. The cool part about the 3D animation is that you are able to see the moves and the resulting shots, without the distraction of human actors, or real sets.

This course is so deep that you could spend 11 weeks just re-watching it and trying out all of the new concepts that it presents. Trying to watch it all at once results in your brain melting and dripping out of your ears, as your eyes glaze over and you go into a self induced coma. This is pretty much true for all of Per’s courses. It took him years to make each of them, so don’t think that you will be able to absorb all of that information in one viewing. The great thing about these turtorials is that you own them, and can refer back to them for guidance in future productions, rather than having to locate and use film school notes.

Besides working with actors, blocking is one of the most important things a Director does, and should be really good at. Yet most books, videos and many film schools barely get past the basics.

The Master Course de-mystifies single-camera blocking and teaches you how to break down complex scripts into great looking shots.

Per spent over half a decade developing his high-end feature camera work for personal use. Soon he realized how much others would benefit from these techniques, so now the information is available to you as well.

The primary goal of The Master Course in High-End Blocking and Staging is to teach you how to do fast and effective blocking, with the highest production-value, and to learn enough different techniques to make Directing more expressive, and ultimately more fun.

As a Director, blocking often takes so much of our time that we’re forced to choose between doing camera work or nurturing great performances from our actors.

If we choose acting, the camera work suffers. If we choose camera work, our actor’s performances can suffer. The problem is that we have to get a good-looking shot with good technique, and a great performance if we want to keep being Directors.

The Master Course in High-End Blocking and Staging helps your camera work become so automatic, that you can do both at the same time. Hopefully, when shooting under pressure, you won’t have to revert to tried and tested techniques like two reverses and a master because you will know the new techniques well enough to feel comfortable using them.

If we hope to ever achieve control over the emotional impact that our productions have on our viewers, we will always be learning new techniques.

Per wouldn’t name names, but The Master Course is being bought by some of the most famous filmmakers in the world. Some of these filmmakers even bought dozens of copies to give to their crews.

Together, the filmmakers who bought this course have won over 10 Academy Awards and 15 Emmys. These are people whose movies everyone has seen, yet they are still learning and training.

Per’s next project, Visual Effects For Directors, was an effort to make others as comfortable as he was with shooting visual effects.

Visual Effects For Directors is a 7 DVD set that covers everything you need to know about shooting Visual Effects. The course is an intense training on everything from green screen, virtual set, 3D, camera tracking, and motion control, to character animation, motion capture, crowd replication, digital set extension, VFX cinematography, and compositing. It shows you exactly what to do on the set, so that the budget isn’t wasted on fixing impossible problems in post that you should have shot correctly.

This is training that everybody needs, from Directors and DPs to professional Visual Effects Artists, because the challenge is the same… to make some good decisions during shooting that you know for a fact will work easily in post.

The course covers everything from basic visual effects, to advanced techniques. While part of the DVD series is geared towards high-budget shooting, the majority of it is about how to do things like “Hollywood” green screen on a budget.

For example, the green screen cyc stage used in the course was built, painted and lit for less than $700, and they show you how it was done. Once you understand what’s important, you can do high-end work on a smaller budget, which is very attractive to clients.

Per’s newest course is Hot Moves, a single DVD addition to The Master Course that’s all about making single and master shots look absolutely awesome.

Where The Master Course focuses on drama and coverage, Hot Moves focuses on a how to make single shots look expensive and sexy. What’s cool is that the vast majority of truly awesome and trailer-worthy shots come from just a handful of concepts, which are easy to learn.

While the course lends itself to very high-budget shooting, the majority of the techniques can be executed even on a very low budget, because it’s the understanding of motion that makes it a hot move, not the equipment you shoot it with.

Hot Moves is full of things that every Director and Cameraman should know. I learned that shots from a small dolly and jib arm looking off of the second floor of a parking garage look very close to those of a very expensive crane.

Learning and mastering these three courses will give you a solid foundation of the things that a director needs to know. You will be able to look at a script, and instantly imagine which shots would look best, and how to quickly lay them out, giving you plenty of time to work with your actors. If you are a Cameraman or DP, you will know what the Director is wanting, and how to get the shots the Director is asking for.

While watching the Visual Effects For Directors series I saw them using Mocha, from Imagineer Systems, and if you plan on doing VFX, this is the software to own.

Mocha Pro offers you a powerful, and easy to use, planar tracking-based solution.

It has a streamlined interface with the power to easily track and manipulate shots not possible with traditional trackers, Mocha Pro is a great VFX choice for Film or Video Post Production, creative motion graphics, and 2D-3D conversion pipelines.

Mocha Pro took all the planar tracking and rotoscoping tools from their award winning software… Mocha, and added the best parts of their legacy products Mokey and Monet, to make one product with all of the features, all optimized for 64 bit operating systems.

Mocha Pro’s Remove Module is a great alternative to painting, cloning and manual tracking, and offers planar tracking and roto export to most editing platforms like After Effects, Flame, and Nuke.

What you end up with in Mocha Pro, is planar tracking and rotoscoping compositing tools for match moving, auto image, wire removal, clean plate generation, and lens distortion correction and stabilization, all in a single “All-in-one” master VFX tool set. Mocha Pro is easy to use, and is very powerful software. Mastering the use of tools like this can get you work, even in this economy.

MSRP:

The Master Course In High-End Blocking & Staging $329

Visual Effects For Directors $329

Hot Moves $69

Contact: Per Holmes

http://www.hollywoodcamerawork.us

702.425.5686

MSRP: Mocha Pro $1495 or upgrade for $895

 

Monitors In Motion Review

In addition to testing and reviewing products, I still direct and edit TV shows, music videos and other projects, so I have to keep my editing workspace functional.

The problem was that my 2×4 foot desk area was getting too crowded for me to work properly. The 24” computer monitor had a large base that held it away from the wall, and one of my Genelec audio monitors was actually forced to live behind my TV Logic 17” HD monitor that I use to view my video output.

Even if you are not an “Audio God”, you know that it’s hard to mix audio properly on a near-field monitor system with one monitor hidden behind another piece of gear. Without having equal distance between the two monitors and your head (forming an equal-sided triangle), you’ll never be listening in the “sweet spot” that the monitors were designed to produce. I really thought that I didn’t have much choice in the matter until I saw the products from Monitors in Motion at the 2010 NAB show.

What first attracted me to the MIM booth was the clean look of their display desks. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that MIM hardware was really well made. Machined from solid aluminum in Canada, the MIM stands were so “artsy” that they looked more like desk art than production gear. There was even a large Apple monitor hung in the air, suspended over the desk, rather than making a large footprint on top of it.

As it turns out, my MIM demo units were as functional as they were good-looking. Now my only problem was that my desk looked shabby by comparison, so I decided to upgrade my desktop with three pre-drilled holes for my MIM stands. MIM has several models to choose from, but we decided that two Mantis arms would work well for my monitors, and a pair of Cooperhead arms with an extra Bone (segment) on each side for my audio monitors.

MIM also offers several mounting solutions. I tried their 5-inch vise clamp and through-the-desk grommet mounts. Three vise clamps held the two 8-pound Genelec audio monitors, my 24 inch EIZO ColorEdge computer monitor, and the 17-inch TVLogic video monitor securely in place. The advantage to using the vise clamps is that when you’re working for someone else, you won’t have to drill holes in their desk to mount your monitors.

While the vise clamp works well, the ultimate mounting solution for me is the through-the-desk grommet mounts. They use a 1/2inch bolt that comes up through a hole in your desk to screw into the solid aluminum base of the MIM stand.

It’s a solid rock, looks ultra clean and totally professional, it also sends a message to your editing clients that you have your act together.

The MIM Mantis stands use an upper brake cylinder and a lower air cylinder to control each of my two monitors. Now, with one hand I can lift, lower, tilt or angle my monitors. They can also be rotated easily, allowing me to view the back of the monitors when making new cable connections. It’s just that cool!

I have been using my stands everyday now for over a year, and they still work well. In addition to making high-quality products, MIM is also user-friendly. For example, MIM will send the Allen wrenches you’ll need for assembly, so you won’t have to go out and buy metric wrenches. Their all-out effort at customer satisfaction makes MIM a great company to do business with.

http://www.monitorsinmotion.com

 

 

 

 

Matrox CompressHD Review

Since TV broadcast is in the process of being replaced by the web, I find myself encoding in H.264 a lot more frequently. The downside is that Apple Compressor is just too slow.

The good news is that Matrox has a product that seriously cuts down your rendering time. And I mean seriously.

You can use the three categories of Matrox MAX presets, Fast Encode, High-Quality, and Blu-ray, or you can create your own customized settings. I used the Fast Encode preset for my tests.

My 51/2 minute 720p 29.97fps test file took 3:45 using the Apple preset for iphone 4, and only 55 seconds with the Matrox preset. That’s about 4 times as fast…how cool is that?

Usually, quality goes down with encoding speed, but I was surprised to find that the quality was actually the same as the slower Apple preset clip.

How does Matrox do it? MAX is a hardware-based dedicated H.264 rendering engine that includes many tweak-able parameters such as Scene-Detection, which gives you multi-pass quality in a single-pass.

There is also access to Levels, Profiles, GOP’s, Frame rates, Bit rates, VBR, CBR, Constant quality, and more.

If you are new to encoding, you are covered as well. For those that are just getting into H.264 encoding, Matrox also provides predefined presets for many devices and targets such as iPad, Blu-ray and YouTube.

The Fast Encode presets use both the MAX hardware, and your CPU, to deliver H.264 files faster than real-time, so you can quickly and easily create H.264 files from a variety of video sources including SD, HD, and RED proxy files up to 2K. Frame rates are 15, 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50, and 59.94, which pretty much cover everything on this planet.

The Matrox Fast Encode and High Quality presets are used to create H.264 files for Apple TV, YouTube, Flash, the web, and mobile devices including iPhone and iPod.

If you need higher quality, the High Quality presets use the MAX hardware exclusively, thereby freeing up your CPUs for other tasks.

The quality is comparable to Compressor Multi-pass… it’s just a lot faster.

Matrox Blu-ray presets use the Matrox High Quality technology to create Blu-ray compliant H.264 files faster than real-time, directly from Compressor. These files can then be authored in Apple Compressor, Adobe Encore, or Roxio Toast, and burned without re-encoding on either Blu-ray or DVD media. If you have a slower computer, this process could save you hours, or even days of encoding.

There is duplication (burning), and replication (stamping) of Blu-rays. Use either H.264 level 4.0 or 4.1 if you want to author and burn individual copies that are compatible with Blu-ray disc players, or level 4.0 for H.264 files intended for mass replication of Blu-ray discs.

A common problem that has been documented with Compressor is a Gamma shift during encoding.

The Matrox MAX hardware performs proper color space conversions from HD to SD and SD to HD, as well as proper color space conversion from RGB to YUV preventing Gamma shift.

Other improvements over Compressor are a Source Video Complexity adjustment that lets you redefine the low and high clipping limit, a Data Rate slider that produces smoother or more abrupt transitions, and a Sample Rate option that lets you see if you are reaching your targeted data rate.

I tested the CompressHD on a new MacPro 12 core 2.93 GHz, with an nvidia Quadro 4000 card and saw a 4x increase in encoding speed. Since the CompressHD is a hardware-accelerated card that takes the burden off of your computer’s CPU, imagine the huge increase in performance that we would see in a quad or 8 core machine. They should call this card “The Rejuvinator”.

If you have a notebook computer, you can stillget this acceleration with the MXO2 Mini MAX, or other MXO2 MAX devices. You should see the same type of increase in encoding performance on your laptop, and the units can be moved easily from MacBook Pro to MacPro with an interface adapter, Express23 for MacBook Pro, and PCIe for Towers

Matrox MXO2 devices, including the MAX ones (with the purchase of an adapter), are now Thunderbolt compatible, so you can use your MXO2 in a tower, then a MBP with Express34, and move the same unit to a Thunderbolt system like MBP, Air, iMac, or MacMini.

You can see more at:

http://www.matrox.com/video/en/products/mac/max/realtime

 

G-SPEED Q Storage Solution Review

If you are doing any kind of heavy duty editing, you will probably have a RAID array connected to your computer. My review system has two, eight Bay towers made by CI Design, which contain 16 Seagate 15,000 RPM SAS drives, connected to an ATTO R380 SAS controller. These drives give me enough speed to edit HD, but they are large and expensive.

My main RAID is over 6 TB in size, so it’s really hard to find something large enough to hold my backup data. I have never had a failure, but sometimes I have over 200 hours of editing in a project, and having a backup helps me sleep better at night.

he G-SPEED Q, at under $1500, allows me to back up my RAID, and easily transport my data to a different editing facility.

G-SPEED Q is a high-performance, 4-bay RAID solution that has a very small footprint. It easily fits on your desk, or in a small case when you want to use it on location. It was actually designed to be rugged enough to travel.

The enclosure is a solid, all aluminum case built for durability, which is exactly what you want protecting your priceless data. It is only L8.25″ x W4.9″ x H6.5″, or 210 x 124 x 166 mm. It may be small, but it is packed with features.

It comes equipped with a 4x 3Gbit eSATA, two FireWire 800/ FireWire 400, and two USB 2.0 ports, so it easily interfaces as you move it from computer to computer, and setting up your RAID is easily done with software using a simple Mac or PC application.

The four hot-swappable hard disk drive modules give it an 8 TB capacity in RAID 0, and a 6 TB capacity in RAID 5. The internal RAID controller features the Oxford 936SE, supporting RAID 0 for maximum performance or RAID 5 for data protection.

Depending upon what you are editing, you can use the G-SPEED Q as your main RAID system. FireWire performance completely saturates the FireWire 800 bus at speeds of 75-80MB/sec. When connected via eSATA, using the G-Tech PCIe x4 RAID controller or other 4x eSATA adapter, the G-SPEED Q can sustain Data transfer rates of over 220MB/sec. Some new laptop computers come with an eSATA connection, allowing you to get full bandwidth. If you are editing on a laptop, this is a very portable solution.

The G-SPEED Q is really a handy device to have around. When I reinitialized my SAS RAID using new settings, I needed somewhere to offload the projects that were already in progress. This was a real- world data transfer, as I had no other copy of the data. If the G-SPEED Q failed to work, I would lose everything.

I used the FireWire 800 connection to my Mac Pro, and backed up about 3 TB of data. At 75 to 80 MB per second it took a while, but it performed flawlessly, and safely transferred my data back to the SAS RAID. Now, I keep a daily backup on my G-SPEED Q, as insurance against data loss, and the best part is that the cabling is provided.

In addition to a CD manual, the G-SPEED Q kit comes with an AC power cord, 1.8 m FireWire 800 to 800 and 400 to 400 cables, a USB 2.0 cable, and a 1 m eSATA cable.

The four hard drives are Hitachi 7200 RPM, 4X SATA II’s with up to 32 MB of cache per drive. These drives, along with the cooling fan are pretty quiet since the “Smart Fan” technology keeps the noise of the RAID to a manageable level.

It doesn’t matter if you have a PC or a Mac, this system works with Mac OSx 10.3 or higher, and Windows 7 or Vista operating systems.

If you want to transfer data between your Mac and a PC there is a program that you should know about. MacDrive8 is a very cool program that you can load on a PC, instantly allowing it to read your Mac files. I have used it, and it works.

If you are wondering how much data will fit on a G-SPEED Q here is the breakdown. Each Terabyte will take up 84 hours of HDV 1080i, 17 hours of DVC Pro HD 1080/60i, 13 hours of 8-bit SD, 10 hours of ProRez 422HQ or 10 bit SD, and 2.25 hours of HD 1080/60i. Since you have 6 or 8 TB to work with, you can store a lot of projects on your G-SPEED Q.

Whether you use your G-SPEED Q as your main RAID, or use it to ensure that you always have a backup, it’s still a great little product. Granted, most people use a RAID 5 that can be rebuilt if one drive fails, there is still the rebuild time to consider. This rebuild time can take days, and when you are on a deadline you don’t always have that luxury.

I found that the G-SPEED Q is a great way to back up and transfer your data, as well as a solid, portable RAID solution for smaller systems.

MSRP: G-SPEED Q 8TB $1499

Contact: http://www.g-technology.com

My review system consisted of a MacPro 8 core with an Intel SSD drive, mounted in a tray from maxupgrades.com, an ATTO R380 SAS controller card connected to two, CI Design 8 bay RAID cases, loaded with 16 Seagate 450GB SAS drives, a BlackMagic HD Extreme 3D card with output viewed on a TVLogic 17” HD monitor. An nvidia FX4800 card connected to an Eizo ColorEdge monitor, mounted on Monitor in Motion stands. Also inside was an nvidia 4000 card for extra Cuda processing for CS5 and the DaVinci Resolve for Mac, the G-SPEED Q for backup and small projects, two Genelec audio monitors, a Mackie mixer, an intuos tablet,and a Tangent Wave panel.

 

 

 

Barger-Lite Review

Barger-Lite reminds me of the old adage, “Build a better mouse trap, and the world will beat a path to your door”.

Barger on the set of Burn Notice

Ed Barger has been in the business for many years, and as a cameraman, he saw the need for a high-wattage soft light that could be used on location, without having to bother with wiring up a distro box, or renting a generator truck.

In the late 1990’s he came up with the “Barger-Lite” for use on his shoots. Soon he started selling them to other interested DP’s and cameramen, and by 2005, making Barger-Lites became his full time job.

I attribute this phenomenon to two factors, the Barger-Lite’s ease of use, and the quality of light that it gives you.

The Barger-Lite comes in two models, a three- bulb unit, and a six- bulb unit. I have used the three- bulb “DV” model for years with great success, and this review is of the new V2 six- bulb version.

The V2, six bulb Barger-Lite is about 20” square, and 5” deep, with a yoke for mounting and aiming the light. It has six sockets on the front for FCM type bulbs, a safety grill, and a metal cover that further protects the bulbs during transit.

In the back are six switches that control the six bulbs, and three pigtails, for plugging into a power source.

The V2 light has been re-designed to run cooler, so you can leave it on all day without overheating the bulbs, or your Chimera.

The Barger-Lite uses a soft box, or “Bag” to gain the soft quality of light that flatters the talent. Chimera makes several bags that work great with the Barger-Lite. I tested a Medium Quartz Chimera with mine, and found it to be awesome.

Imagine using a lightweight fixture that is able to deliver 1000 watts to 6000 watts of light, simply by flicking six switches. This means no more climbing up a ladder to hang heavy fixtures, or having to change out hot scrims when the amount of light needs to be adjusted.

The Barger-Lite’s ease of use is further enhanced by the fact that it does not require you to find a 60 amp circuit. To accomplish this, the Barger-lite uses three pigtails that can be plugged into three ordinary 20 amp, 120v outlets, via extension cords, allowing you to use it just about anywhere.

In addition to being used in feature films like, Meet The Fockers, and The Punisher-War Zone, Barger-Lites are now being used on about 50% of the TV series being shot.

You can see the results on shows like Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, Boston Legal, Everybody Hates Chris, WWE (World Wrestling Ent.), and the show that I visited…Burn Notice.

Burn Notice started out as cable show on the USA network, and turned into a big hit.

I went to Miami, where the show is shot, and spent half a day watching DP Bill Wages A.S.C., and Gaffer Freddy Valentine do their thing.

Burn Notice is a big show, with about 150 employees. It uses the same DP, but changes directors every episode, so the crew really have to stay on their toes. In addition, each episode of the show is shot in five days instead of seven, so there is always a need to find faster ways of doing things, so Barger-Lites on this set makes sense.

The “Loft” set is the place where the lead character lives, so a lot of action happens there. Since Bill the DP, and Freddy the Gaffer needed to be able to move their Barger-Lites into position quickly, they came up with a very cool solution.

They mounted I-Hooks in the walls, and use a Z-rope ratchet on both sides of each Barger-Lite to secure it to the wall, and hold it in the proper position. Using this creative system, the light can quickly be moved anywhere around the room, and because the Barger-Lites are mounted to the wall, there are never any worries about light stands getting in the shot.

Bill likes a soft, natural look, so he created a “Chicken Coop”, or “Coffin” to add ambient light over the kitchen area of the Loft set. For those of you that are unfamiliar with these terms, he basically bounced six 1K Mole Richardson lights into a shallow box of reflective material, mounted to the ceiling. Since a dimmer controls each one of these 1K lights, the ambient light in the room is totally under control. The problem with any overhead light fixture is that it casts light straight down, resulting in some unwanted shadows.

To remedy this situation, Bill uses the Barger-Lites as backlights, and sometimes as a key light for close up shots.

Keeping with Bill’s soft look, they use Medium, and Large Quartz Chimeras, with the Chimera front silk, as well as Full Soft Frost gel to further diffuse the light.

They also use 60 degree Honeycombs on the front of their Barger-Lites, to help them control where all that soft light lands, and the 19 pin SOCOPEX option from Barger which allows them to fully control each bulb via a dimmer. The overall result is great looking footage, which is shot in a timely manner.

By unscrewing the tension handle on the side of the Barger-Lite, it fits well in a Pelican iM3075 Storm Case, with Cubed Foam. The Pelican Storm Case is lightweight, yet strong, allowing the Barger-Lite, Chimera, Rods, and three 12 gauge 50 foot extension cords, to be easily rolled around from job to job, while protecting your investment.

When you need a high-powered Tungsten soft light that can be powered up in a home or business, consider the Barger-Lite. It’s the one many professionals use…because it works

Backstage Rascal Flatts

perfectly.

 

MSRP: Varies with Light Package

Contact: www.barger-lite.com

 

Review of the Dana Dolly

The Dana Dolly may have been designed for the times when you want to do a 6′ to 8′ dolly move without a lot of setup, but I found that it works for most of the dolly shots that I need done. It’s a solid design that is both affordable and easy to use.

The Dana Dolly system consists of two brackets that attach to each end of two track pipes. The brackets hold the pipes securely, about a foot apart from each other. On the bottom of each bracket is a pin that fits into the top of a Low Boy Combo stand.

For use on the ground, or on top of apple boxes, you simply flip over the brackets so that the pins face up.

The dolly Camera platform is a 17”x14” “Skateboard”, with a hole in the middle for mounting your fluid head. It rolls on the two 1 1/4” Track Pipes which are held in position by the brackets. This platform uses four sets of four special wheels, which roll smoothly down the Track Pipes.

This simple yet functional design comes from a key grip with over 20 years experience in all types of production. He tested and perfected the Dana Dolly while using it on over 1000 production shoots.

The Dana Dolly is made in America using quality components. The designer found that 16 special Poly Urethane wheels was optimum for smooth tracking, and I agree. My dolly shots turned out so smooth that when some other production professionals saw my footage, they asked me if I had image stabilized them in post.

The Platform is made of a special “Glastic” composite board that is waterproof, and will never wear out. Your camera mounts on the Mitchell Mount that can take all types of camera heads via the adapters that are included in the kit.

I found the Dana Dolly system easy to use in so many ways. It works great in tight places, has a small learning curve, a quick setup, and is easy to reset after the shot.

If you are shooting in a house, all you need is a 3’x8’ space for the dolly and the cameraman. You can also mount two platforms on one set of Track Pipes. This setup allows you to avoid having to use two tripods in a tight environment. One camera can get the wide shot, and the other camera can get the close up shots. With both cameras on the same set of pipes, you can instantly truck left or right to line up a better shot. I found this setup to be very useful, even when using one camera.

I was shooting a Q&A session for a TV show that just aired worldwide. The speaker was addressing a crowd of about 50 people. I put one camera in the back of the room for the speaker, and another camera on a Dana Dolly at the side of the room. As people in the crowd raised their hand to request a mic to ask their question, I dollied the camera until I had a clean shot thru the crowd to the person asking the question. I never would have had time to pick up and move a tripod, and because I had to zoom in so tight, shooting handheld was out of the question.

Later, for some nice B-roll of the audience, I slowly dollied up and down the 8’ rails at head level. The results were perfectly smooth, and added a lot of production value.

Setting up the Dana Dolly is easy. I use two Manfrotto A1010CS “Avenger” Low Boy Combo Stands. The A1010C stands each have one adjustable leg, which makes the job of leveling the dolly really easy. These stands are heavy-duty steel stands that can support the weight of the dolly system. They are also only about 2’ long, so they are very portable. They also have a built in receptacle with a knob to secure the dolly bracket to the stand, which allows you to lift and move the dolly with the stands connected.

I keep the Schedule 80 aluminum pipe attached to the brackets in the back of my van, and the platform, Fluid Head, and stands in a road case. When I get to the job, I place the two Avenger stands about 8’ apart, pop the bracket pins into the stands, raise the stands to the proper height and level them. With the Track Pipes in place, I just set the platform (with the Fluid Head attached) on the pipes, mount my camera and start shooting.

To change setups, I lift off the platform and camera, and hand it to a grip. Then, with the pipes still attached, I have someone pick up each end and move it to the new location. The grip places the platform (with the camera still attached) back on the pipes, and with a little leveling, I’m ready to go again. Compared to a traditional dolly system, this is really fast and easy.

The cool thing about this system is that you can take it anywhere. When portability is an issue (like flying to a shoot), just take the stands and platform on the plane, and buy some inexpensive 1 1/4″ pipe from the local hardware store when you get to the location.

These days, the challenge is to add more production value for less money. In this economy, I try to look at the return on investment for any new piece of gear, and the Dana Dolly quickly pays for itself.

Whole Dana Dolly system costs less than what you would spend for just the track of a normal dolly system, and by charging your client $50 per day for the ability to have dolly moves in their project, the system will pay for itself in 19 days…that sounds like a great investment to me.

MSRP: $599 for the Dana Dolly kit, $40-$75 for aluminum, stainless steel, or PVC pipe, and about $350 for a pair of Manfrotto A1010CS “Avenger” Low Boy Combo stands.

Contact: http://www.danadolly.com

Manfrotto: http://www.avenger-grip.us and info@avenger-grip.us

 

 

Review of The Logickeyboard for Apple Final Cut Pro

Logickeyboard’s custom keyboard for Apple Final Cut Pro is based on the original Ultra Thin Apple Pro keyboard. It offers plug-and-play setup with any USB-equipped Mac computer. It has a good feel, and the stylish, modern appearance of the “New Apple Look”.

The difference between my regular keyboard, and this custom keyboard is what it does for my editing speed in FCP.

In addition to writing reviews, I also have a production company that makes TV shows, so I am able to test products in a real world environment. Since I only switched over to MAC a couple of years ago, I find that having the FCP shortcut keys labeled on the keyboard makes myFCP editing a lot simpler and faster.

A nice side effect of this keyboard is that I am actually beginning to memorize the FCP key commands. Another added benefit is that it is slim enough to fit into the pull out keyboard tray under my editing desk, rather than having to live on top of the desk like my regular Mac wireless keyboard.

Mac will allow you to use more than one keyboard at a time. Since the Logickeyboard for FCP features all the regular letter, number, and symbol labeling found on my conventional keyboard, I can use either one, or both if I choose. I use the conventional keyboard for reviews, and my new Logickeyboard for editing.

The Logickeyboard is actually a real Apple Pro extended keyboard, it just has all of the icons for selecting tools, navigating, and editing on color-coded key caps. This week I found that it made sorting P2 clips in Log and Transfer a much easier process. Having the in and out, and the forward and backward keys color-coded made the pre-editing of my 75 clips go much faster. I am still learning FCP, and between the tutorials at http://www.lynda.com and my new FCP logickeyboard, I’m making good progress.

Logickeyboard has also introduced their Advanced line of keyboards. The Pro and advanced lines both use the same keyboard, but instead of the color being molded into the keys, the Advanced keys use a paint guaranteed to outlast the keyboard. It’s basically the same thing, and saves you $45.

They also have released a keyboard for use with Final Cut Studio Color, which you can see on their website.

MSRP: FCP Pro Line $159.00

FCP Advanced Line $114

Contact: stephen.moore@bspus.com

http://www.logickeyboard.com

The system used to test this product is a MacPro dual Quad core 3Ghz computer with 12GB of RAM, an AJA Hle card, 10 Seagate 450GB SAS drives in an AIC case , controlled by an Atto R380 SAS controller, a Gateway 24” computer monitor, and a 17” TV Logic HD monitor for video output.

 

 

Review of Helpful Computer tools from Prosoft Engineering

Part of having a successful production company is having a happy computer to edit on. Prosoft makes some wonderful tools that can not only help you to keep your computer running smoothly, but can also save you when things go bad.

Let’s start with Drive Genius 3. This is a product that is used by Apple at the Genius Bar as part of the ProCare yearly tuneup. It runs as a 64-bit application, and has a utility called DrivePulse™ that will check for fragmentation, volume errors, and physical issues on your hard drives.

DrivePulse™ will only test your hard drives when the computer is idle, so you don’t have to worry about losing processing power in the middle of an edit.

DrivePulse™ does a thorough job. It performs a Scan on a disk to search for bad blocks on the hard drive, ensuring the physical integrity of the device, performs a Verify on the volume to assess the integrity of the catalog and directory structures, and scans the volume catalog and its files to determine the amount of fragmentation. Now, you can Defragment your OS X drives for optimum performance.?

My last MacPro had a motherboard problem that would intermittently corrupt the data on my main drive. It took a year for Apple to replace it, and as you can imagine, I went a little crazy when suddenly I could not edit the day before a deadline. Verify would tell me what was wrong, and Repair would help me fix the problems that were found.

The Repair feature let me Analyze, Repair, and Rebuild OS X directory information that soon got me up and running again…more

After a hard drive is more that half full, it slows down, so it makes sense to get rid of stuff you don’t need. DriveSlim™ let’s you archive or delete large, duplicate, and unusable files to save drive space.

As a reviewer, I load a lot of software on my computer. Using DriveSlim™, I found that I had tons of files that allowed my programs to work in other languages. Since I didn’t speak these languages, I felt safe getting them off of my drive.

You can make a Bootable DVD-ROM so that you can restart your Mac if it gets sick, or just make a spare boot drive.

Since it is hard to fix your main drive while you are using it, a cool thing to do is to add a small partition, and make a spare boot drive with your OSX and Drive Genius 3 loaded on it. When you have any problems, simply reboot from this spare drive and fix the problems on your main drive.

Normally, I would have to erase and reformat the drive before adding partitions, but the Repartition feature let me easily add and Resize a new partition without erasing the old one?

With my new 12 core MacPro I also used the Scan feature to scan my new drives to test for media faults, the Integrity Check to do long range throughput tests for performance, and the Benchtest for comparing drive performances.?

Another handy utility is the Duplicate feature that allows you to create a high-speed backup clone of your main drive. This will make things a lot easier when your main drive crashes.

If you do any proprietary editing work, the Shred function allows you to Securely erase your data using U.S. DoD specification algorithms. After this, your data is un-recoverable.?

Drive Genius 3 works on all kinds of drives including ATA, SATA, Firewire, SSD, and USB drives, and you don’t have to be a geek to use it.

The User Interface is easy to understand, allowing most operations to be accomplished in a few clicks, but sometimes you need an entirely different product.

ata Rescue 3 is another Prosoft product for when something goes terribly wrong, like when you need to recover files from a crashed external hard drive.

There are two ways to use this product. First, you can install Data Rescue and start up the application. Data Rescue will then scan your problem drive for your files, and you can then save them to a secondary hard drive. There is no risk of writing over your files since you will not be recovering files to the drive you are scanning.

If your main drive has crashed then you can still save yourself using the included Emergency Boot DVD.

In the case of your main boot hard drive crashing, due to a virus or a need to recover deleted files, you can use the included emergency boot DVD.

This allows your computer to boot from the DVD, and then scan your internal hard drive. Once the scan has been completed, you can choose the files you want to recover, and then copy them over to your secondary hard drive.

To boot from the emergency boot DVD, you just insert it into your computer and reboot. Data Rescue will automatically access your drive and then guide you through the data recovery process. You will then select the files you would like to recover, and then copy them over to a secondary internal or external hard drive. It’s not rocket science, but saving the project that you have spent days working on will certainly make you feel smart.

Since data is what we spend days creating, it makes sense to protect that data. The last utility you might want to know about is Data Backup 3, even if you use Time Machine.

Time Machine is a great introduction to backing up for those users that have never backed up their Mac before, and it can save you, but Time Machine doesn’t have the flexibility or the options to back up selected RAID data.

Data Backup 3 is flexible, it can backup to CDs, DVDs, network drives and even non-Mac-OS formatted drives. Data Backup 3 can also schedule, compress, and encrypt your backups. You can’t do any of this with Time Machine.

It’s also Versatile. Want to only backup your home folder? Want to make a bootable backup of your entire drive? Want to make different backup sets based on your needs? Data Backup 3 can do all that for you.

Well, there you have it, three tools that will remove most of the drama from your computing experience. As the trend towards a Tapeless workflow continues, these tools will play a larger role in keeping you sane. The support staff is also awesome. It is really nice to talk to a real person when facing a catastrophic data loss.

 

MSRP: Drive Genius 3 is $99, Data Rescue 3 is $99, and Data Backup 3 is $49

Contact: 1.877.477.6763

My review system consisted of a MacPro 12 core 2.93 GHz with 24 GB of http://www.lifetimememory.com RAM, an Intel SSD drive, mounted in a tray from http://www.maxupgrades.com , an ATTO R380 SAS controller card connected to two, CI Design 8 bay RAID cases, loaded with 16 Seagate 450GB SAS drives, a BlackMagic HD Extreme 3D card with output viewed on a TVLogic 17” HD monitor and a 2s2 24” monitor. An nvidia GeForce120 card connected to a 24” Eizo ColorEdge monitor, mounted on Monitor in Motion stands. A Cubix GPU-Xpander with two nvidia 4000 cards for extra Cuda processing for CS5.5 and the DaVinci Resolve for Mac, the G-SPEED Q for backup and small projects, two Genelec audio monitors, a Mackie mixer, an intuos tablet, and a Tangent Wave panel.

Telestream’s Episode 6 Review

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Telestream’s Episode 6 Review

For years I have struggled with getting my projects to look good on the web. No matter how good they looked in HD, they would always get pixilated playing back in their new reduced size format.

To remedy this situation I tried various encoding programs, but they usually had too many options, and it was a full-time job trying to figure out which options to use for a particular project.

As the paradigm shifted away from TV broadcast to Web broadcast, getting my projects to look good on the web became more important than ever. If I wanted to compete, I was going to need a user-friendly encoder that wouldn’t waste hours of my time.

The new, user-friendly interface of Episode 6 made my life so much easier. Episode 6 really has simplified the encoding process. For example, when I started doing blog videos for a new client, I found out how easy YouTube uploads could be.

First, I took my high definition master file and dropped it into the file list box on the left side of the interface.

Next, I clicked on the workflows button and selected YouTube HD. This action was reflected in the encoder settings box so that I could instantly see what codec was being used.

The preset automatically gave me two deployment boxes on the right side of the interface. By clicking on the YouTube deployment box, a deployment inspector window opened so that I could add the username, password, video title, description, video category, and keywords for the YouTube upload.

The second deployment box added a copy of the video to my desktop, so that I could view, e-mail it, or just save a copy for later use.

Now that everything was in place, all I had to do was to click on the submit button. Since I had used the private video option, the video was automatically uploaded to YouTube, and only my client could view it.

Episode 6 has been the easiest, fastest, and cleanest workflow for the web that I have ever used. Evidently, some major corporations are getting the same results. Many of the big guns such as CBS, BBC, CNN, FOX, CBC, Comcast, Direct TV, Time Warner, MTV, Discovery, and Lifetime, use Telestream products to streamline operations, reach broader audiences, and generate more revenue from their media.

Because of the shift away from broadcast to Web distribution, many large corporations have seen the success of Hulu and YouTube, and are now funding professional webisodes to market their products online, and to all of those millions of mobile devices. The good news is that the web is generating new projects for us to work on. The bad news is that without proper encoding tools, it is difficult to transcode clean video for the web in a timely manner.

Episode is an all-in-one encoder that includes a lot of presets and filters, which really makes the choice of choosing your encoder much easier. You also get the ability to add bumpers, trailers and watermarks to enhance and protect your video content. Episode 6 also has great video processing. I encoded an uncompressed 10-bit file to YouTube, with excellent picture quality.

To cash in on the broadcast to Web transition, your shop needs the ability to encode for multiple display formats while keeping costs low. The new clustering and file sharing capabilities built into Episode 6 allow you a more efficient use of your existing computing resources, so that you can achieve faster transcoding of your projects. Size doesn’t matter. If you are a small shop like me, with one computer and a RAID, or a large house with many computers, Episode 6 has you covered.

Episode 6’s exclusive One-Click Clustering allows you to distribute your workload across permanent or ad hoc clusters as computers become available. With One-Click Clustering, users can easily join or setup a cluster of mixed Mac and PC computers to get the work done faster, maximizing your productivity and equipment investment.

The cool thing is that because of Episode’s built-in file sharing and easy configuration, clusters can be set up without the need for an expensive IT guy. Permissions-based clustering allows users to join a cluster, name clusters, view machines on the cluster, as well as the workload and determine status of each.

For time-critical workflows, Telestream’sSplit-and-Stitch® technology and parallel encoding allow you to either saturate the processing power of a single machine, or distribute files across a cluster of Mac or PC servers to achieve some really fast encoding speeds. In addition, Episode 6 adds format support for high-quality Main Concept H.264 and MPEG video formats.

I’ve found that Episode 6 Pro is an awesome tool that is easy to use, that consistently delivers superb looking web video. If you want to cash in on video for the web, this is the tool to own.

MSRP:

Episode priced at $495 includes support for Flash 8 & 9, H.264, Windows Media, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1, DV, 3GPP and much more, plus One-Click Clustering and file sharing, processing of one job at a time, and unlimited batch processing.

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