The Cameras of NAB 2014

If we think back to last year’s NAB, I remember seeing popup posters of the Black Magic 4K Production Camera and the Pocket Cine Camera the night before their launch. I remember thinking ‘this is a joke – a cunning deception to raise our hopes’ and today people are taking delivery of their 4K cameras.

So this year, I was excited to hear about AJA’s entry to the market – the CION.

UPDATE: AJA is PL only, posing a problem to owners of EF and Nikkor lenses. This is, for many of us, a bit of a show stopper. Happiness to AJA for choosing a standard, but they have effectively cut out their main audience – those of us who are upgrading from DSLR.

It looks great, their intro video is great, the price (considering…) is great. It looks like a really solid bit of kit. Well thought out, designed for professional use, a sort of pocket-money Alexa if you will, even though we haven’t seen the pictures.

I immediately started a little ‘savings’ pot – a stash of money where I’ll fund its purchase when I’m ready. I’ve already stated clearly that I will not buy another 8 bit camera (sorry Sony, with your cute Alpha 7S, and Atomos with your Shogun) and I really don’t want to buy a Panasonic GH4 and its own set of lenses. I’m happy that JVC are finally moving into the market of buyable cameras and acknowledge their choice of Micro Four Thirds, but I must move on.

So AJA’s Alexalookalike looks just the ticket. So excited!

Until, of course, those Aussies stroll up to the bar.

The Black Magic Ursa isn’t quite the Cion – it’s a giant (!) bear of a camera that has a 10″ flop-out screen. It has built in rail adaptors, it has a big handle, it has 3 big LCD screens, it screams ‘Production Department’ and all, and actually looks a little amateurish compared to the Cion. But it has something new and incredible:

The Ursa has swapable sensors.

That’s right, folks. You can buy the S35 EF mount edition. Later on, you can get a 2/3″ B4 sensor and mount. So in a few moments you’ve converted your big beefy Cinema camera into a big beefy ENG camera. You can have both a large S35 sensor mode with all your EOS lenses (or use Nikkors, or even opt for a PL mount S35 sensor – boggle!), and with a smallish investment and a little patience, have a 2/3″ B4 mount with your choice of ENG parfocal long range zooms.

Now, that’s worthy of investment!

Before we get all frothy at the mouth and loose at the wallet, we haven’t seen pictures (though both are promising 12 stops, ProRes 10 bit capture as well as raw, global shutter, et al), we haven’t got an actual shipping date (Black Magic are on the spot here), and it could all be show-stopping hype. But both AJA and Black Magic have effectively put the kybosh on many people’s purchasing decisions and both cameras offer – on paper at least – excellent value.

EDIT: More details came out about the camera. It’s 10 Kilograms with a lens and battery, so purchasers may want to think about their tripod heads and getting a good physiotherapist. Furthermore, it uses two C-Fast CF slots, which are quite expensive and don’t hold much footage when you’re shooting 10 bit 4K in an I-frame format like ProRes. A 128GB C-Fast card costs around $1,200 for 20 minutes of ProRes or 6 mins of raw. Come back, XQD cards, all is forgiven!

Right now, I’ll give the MDMA tip of the hat to AJA for the most desirable camera, but egad – the Ursa is so close behind and if they can deliver B4 they will win my vote. The GH4 was looking like the HVX200 of 2014 but may miss out to many users because of its Micro Four Thirds status.

Sony’s Alpha 7S was launched with great pizzazz, and is probably going to light fires under the 5D Mk3 market. But it’s a DSLR, and many of us have found that a DSLR just isn’t nice to use as a video camera if you’re being paid to deliver video. I think it’s excellent that Sony have included an S35 sensor crop and so your investment in S35/EF-S e-mount lenses is protected – you’re effectively getting a Canon 7D and 5D Mk3 in one body – and you have access to XLR audio through a special hot shoe with a £600 accessory. The body is tiny and it’s not hugely expensive. But it’s a DSLR style camera and I got on better with an AX100 than i did with an A7R when I had a chance to try lots of body styles.

So, welcome, AJA, to the camera market. You have a handsome product, but Black Magic is hot at your heals with interchangeable sensors. I trust AJA for its IO (which replaced a £35k Avid suite for me), and the Ki Pro (which replaced the Grass Valley things we were offered before). Your camera will always remind me of a pocket money Alexa and perhaps the comparison is deserved. But be aware of what Black Magic has done. The idea of swappable sensors is mind boggling.

Talk to the Badger

Badger SoftieHooray, Rycote have delivered my Badger wind-jammer! After a week that revolved around filming and editing talking heads and vox pops, it still struck home how aggressive and threatening a Sennheiser 416 can appear to interviewees when it’s hand held for interviews – like having a gun pointed at them.

This will break the ice, it’s cute and fun, and it’s REALLY good in the wind!

So we’re all on the same page, underneath that fake fur is a long microphone ‘pipe’ that’s sort of the ‘telephoto lens’ of the microphone world. If you use it outside, and the merest zephyr of wind plays across this long black thing, it creates a nasty rumble that drowns the interview with rumbles, bumps and that ghastly scratchy ‘audio overload’ interference that completely ruins your audio. So a wind jammer is Sine Qua Non outside, but can be redundant inside. In fact, it becomes more of an audio recorder’s codpiece. But in my previous post, I came to terms with why one should use a ‘fluffy’ or a ‘wind jammer’ indoors where it serves no purpose. But I digress.

Rycote will make you one to special order – no extra cost (thanks, guys!) but of course you’ll have to wait for it. Sure there’s skunks and zebras, but I like the badger – and especially considering that Rycote are in Gloucestershire, which was the epicentre of the Badger Cull Debacle – so, I feel this is in memoriam of the Badgers Who Fell.

To be clear, the badger effect only comes on strong at certain angles. This is not an anatomically correct badger. Don’t expect this to pass muster at a children’s puppetry party. But that’s the strength. It ‘hints’ at badgerness, but it’s still actually a proper pro-level bit of kit that will allow you to shoot outside with sensitive mics.

It’s not frivolous – just a little nod to those who get the joke. Of course, if I were shooting a drama or a difficult investigative journalism piece, this is not the thing to bring. But I shoot corporates. I shoot shiny, happy video full of shiny, happy people, and I’m looking forward to interviewing people with it. It? Him? Her? Should one name it? Or is that going too far?

Yes. It is. It’s just a socially acceptable iteration of the dead cat.

FCPX – partying with your Flaky Friend

Tart

UPDATE: Compound Clips, specifically splitting Compound Clips, and worst of all, splitting a compounded clip that’s been compounded, increases project complexity exponentially. Thus, your FCPX project quickly becomes a nasty, sticky, crumbly mess.

Which is a shame, because Compound Clips are the way we glue audio and video together, how we manage complexity with a magnetic timeline, and butt disparate sections together to use transitions. Kind of vital, really.

Watch these excellent demonstration videos from T. Payton who hangs out at fcp.co:

These refer to version 10.0.1, and at time of writing, were at 10.0.3, but I can assure you that we STILL have this problem (I don’t think it’s a bug, I think it’s the way FCPX does Compound Clips). We return you to your original programming…

Okay, report from the trenches: Final Cut Pro 10? Love it – with a long rider in the contract.

I’m a short-form editor – most of my gigs are 90 seconds to 10 minutes (record is 10 seconds and I’m proud of it). Turn up ‘Somewhere in Europe’, shoot interviews, General Views, B-Roll, get something good together either that night, or very soon afterwards, publish to the web, or to the big screen, or push out to mobiles and ipads…

This is where FCPX excels. As an editorial ‘current affairs’ segment editor, it’s truly a delight. I bet you slightly overshot? Got a 45 minute take on an interview that needs to be 45 seconds? Range based favourites are awesome, and skimming lets you find needles in a haystack. Need to edit with the content specialist at your side? The magnetic timeline is an absolute joy, and don’t get me started about auditioning.

It’s true: in cutting down interviews, in throwing together segments, and especially when arguing the toss over telling a given story, I’m at least twice as fast and so much more comfortable throwing ideas around inside FCPX.

But my new Editing Friend is a ‘Flaky Friend’.

She really should be the life and soul of the party, but somehow there’s a passive aggressive diva streak in her.

There are three things she doesn’t do, and it’s infuriating:

  • She doesn’t recognise through-edits – they can’t be removed, they are, to her, like cesarian scars, tribal tattoos (or so she claims), cuts of honour. We tell her we’re cutting soup at this stage, but no. ‘Cuts are forever’ she says, like the perfect NLE she thinks she is.
  • She doesn’t paste attributes selectively – it’s only all or nothing. ‘We must be egalitarian’ she croons. What is good for one is good for all, apparently. You can’t copy a perfect clip and only apply colour correction to the pasted clip – you must paste EVERYTHING, destroying your sound mix, needing extensive rework to your audio mix, and heaven help you if you change your mind.
  • She flatly refuses to accept that there is already a way we all do common things, and wants to do it her own kooky way. Making J and L cuts into a Tea Ceremony, blind assumption that a visual transition needs an audio transition, even if we’ve already done the groundwork on the audio… girl, the people who think you’re being cute by insisting this are rapidly diminishing to the point you can count them on your thumbs, and we do include you in that list.

So okay, she’s a good gal at heart. Meaning the best for you. But she needs to bail out and quit every so often, especially if you’re used to tabbing between email, browser, Photoshop, Motion et al. She’ll get all claustrophobic, and you’ll be waiting 20-40 seconds with the spinning beachball of death between application switches. It’s all a bit too much like hard work. ‘I can’t cope’, she sighs – and spins a beachball like she smokes a cigarette. We stand around, shuffling our feet as she determinedly smokes her tab down to the butt. ‘Right!’ she shouts at last. ‘Let’s get going!’

And yes, it’s great when things are going right.

But put her under pressure, with a couple of dozen projects at hand, some background rendering to do, it all gets very ‘I’m going to bed with a bottle of bolly’. I’m getting this an awful lot now, and I really resent being kept hanging around whilst she changes a 5 word caption in a compound clip that takes 5 FRICKIN’ MINUTES to change, I resent every minute of waiting for projects to open and close, and whilst it’s lovely to see her skip daintily through all that fun new footage, when it comes down to the hard work, she’s so not up to it…

I am twice as fast at editing in FCPX, but I am a quarter of the speed when doing the ‘maid of all work’ cleaning up and changes. It means that, actually, I am working twice as hard in X as I was in 7, just mopping up after this flakey friend who has a habit of throwing up in your bathtub and doing that shit-eating grin as they raid your fridge of RAM and CPU cycles.

Well, FCPX dear, my flaky friend, you’re… FIRED.

The Light Fantastic

Just back from a manic week, shooting in Beirut, Cairo, then to Cambridge and finally to Edinburgh. We were shooting documentary style, interviews and GVs (General Views) or B-Roll, and Cutaways. The schedules were fluid, the locations unseen, and everything needed to be shot at NTSC frame rates. Immediately, my favourite camera for this sort of job (Sony’s FS100) was out. Secondly, we needed a flexible lighting kit, but all kit needed to be portable, flexible and light.

Even in these days of extremely sensitive cameras, lighting is still an essential part of video work. Even if it’s a bit of addition with a reflector or subtraction with a black drape, you’re adapting the light to reveal shape and form and directing the viewer’s eye to what’s important to your story.

Of course, we can’t all travel with a couple of 7-Tonne lighting trucks full of HMI Brutes and Generators, or even a boxful of Blondes and Redheads. I’ve had a little interview kit of Dedos, Totas and a softbox with an egg-crate, but then these create a separate box of cables, dimmers, plugs, RCDs and stands, and whilst easy to throw in the boot of the car, it’s not exactly travel friendly.

I recently invested in a couple of 1×1 style LED panels, run off V-Lock batteries. These have been a revelation – the freedom to light ‘wirelessly’, and with enough brightness to do a dual-key two-up interview with three cameras has been great. I’ve got the entire kit into a Pelicase with stands, reflector, batteries and charger – but at a gnat’s under 30 Kg, it attracts ‘heavy’ surcharges when flown (and eye-rolls from check-in staff). Then add a tripod bag, then spare a thought for the sartorial and grooming needs of Yours Truly, and the prices go up, as do the chances of something going missing. Also, a stack of pelicases and flight cases lets everyone know that the Media Circus is in town. Such attention isn’t always welcome – especially from those in uniform.

So I’ve been shopping.

I’ve found some little LED lamps on eBay that clip together and run off the same batteries as my FS100. Add a couple of lightweight stands, and the Safari tripod, add a few yards of bubblewrap and a ‘Bag For Life’ full of clothing, all thrown into an Argos cheapie lightweight suitcase. I reckon the case is probably good for three, maybe four trips when reinforced with luggage straps, but getting three bags into one, and doing so under 20 Kg, is a very neat trick. No excess baggage charges, no additional overweight baggage charges, no trips to oversize baggage handling, no solo struggling with four bags…

Entire shoot kit including tripod and 3 head lighting.The six LED lamps and three stands allowed for basic 3 point lighting, and their native daylight balance meant that, for the best part, we were augmenting the available light in our locations. Even outdoors, 3 LED lamps bolted together, about 1.5 meters from the subject (and a foot or so above his eyeline) produced a beautiful result. Without the lamp, we’d have ‘just another voxpop’, but with the lamp, with the ability to bring his face up one f-stop from the background, we had a very slick shot. And because it’s all battery driven, we could do this outdoors, we could run around to different locations, and never have to worry about bashing cables – or even finding a power point that worked.

Now, there’s LED, and there’s LED. These were not Litepanels lamps, and there is a little bit of the ‘lime’ about the light. CRI was below 90, which isn’t very good. However, this was easy to cheer up using FCP-X’s colour board, and quite frankly most humans would not see the green tinge until I carefully point it out and do a ‘before/after’ – and even then, my clients weren’t in the slightest bit bothered – just thought I was being a bit of an ‘Artiste’.

We shot on my Canon 550D using the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS zoom and a Sigma 50mm 1.4 in some of the smaller locations (to really throw the background out of focus). For GVs and B-Roll, the Image Stabilisation was essential for getting shots where we couldn’t take a tripod, or for working so fast a tripod would have been a liability. You’ll have to imagine standing at the edge of Cairo traffic, or wandering through back street markets – or filming buildings next to razor wire blockades guarded by soldiers…

So, the camera could be thrown in a backpack with three lenses, a Zoom recorder, a couple of mics, batteries, charger, a little LitePanels Micro ‘eye-light’ and of course the Zacuto Z-Finder. Everything else, including tripod, stands, lamps and chargers, plus clothing, go in the suitcase.

I really prefer the Pelicase, I love my 1x1s, I’m so glad to be back on the Sachtler head and using an FS100, but I’ve got my ‘low profile’ kit together now. And with the little panels using NP-F batteries (or 5x AAs), clipping together to make a key, or staying separate for background lighting, it’s a very flexible kit.

Two little quotes come to mind: at a MacVideo event a while back, Dedo Weigert (the DoP of Dedo lamp fame) asserted that lighting is not about quantity, but about quality. On a recent podcast, DoP Shane Hurlbut stated, in reaction to the sensitivity of cameras ‘not needing extra lighting’ that it was a DoPs duty to control light rather than to accept what’s already there. I’ve taken both of these to heart with portable LED lamps, as there’s no longer an excuse to shoot without.

PS: I’ll be doing some further tests with the lamps, and intend to make a video from the results.

The ‘Science’ of ‘Awesome’?

What is it about manflu and training DVDs? Once again, I am confined to duvet, lines of lemsip cut with vitamin C ready for snorting, and I am watching the latest instalment of Per Holmes’ Magnum Opus – “Hot Moves – the Science of Awesome”. And once again, it’s an amazing watch.

This 115 minute long DVD/MP4 feature is an ‘addendum’ to the ‘Master Course In High-End Blocking & Staging’ course – a 6 DVD set of mindbending info, but rather than cover the mechanics of telling a story, or covering a scene so it will cut well, this DVD is about getting the trailer shots – as the narrator puts it, ‘awesome for the sake of being awesome’.

In his usual style, Per and his team hose you with information. It comes thick and fast – though I detect a slight slowing of in tempo in this iteration (though that could be the lemsip). You know an iconic shot when you see it, but the team demonstrate how and why these shots work. And variations that don’t.

Funnily enough, the audience for this production is probably a lot wider than previous titles, not only because it’s great for low budget indie movie makers, but because it taps into the virtual world. This is a must-have for 3d animators and motion graphics designers looking for a movie style.

But even if you’re just going to invest in a slider or even tape a GoPro Hero to a broom stick, you’re going to get some great ideas and solid learning from the title.

It’s ‘required reading’ (watching) if you already have the ‘Visual Effects for Directors’ series, and a fun intro to the style of Per Holmes if you’re thinking about jumping in, but remember that this is the fun bit. You’ll still have to learn the footwork with Blocking & Staging. And none of these titles are ‘watch once and file away’. You can absorb and reinforce by a sort of visual osmosis. I still go through the titles as a sort of ‘background hum’ if I’m not actually editing, though my accountant will probably say this is probably why my paperwork skills are so poor.

Any peeves? The download version I purchased was a DVD image, which really wants you to use FireFox extensions, which turned into a bit of a FireFox love-in and a very long download. I much prefer a smaller straightforward MP4, preferably HD for my AppleTV. But that’s such a minor thing and I believe HCW may be going MP4 soon.

In conclusion, this is yet another solid training title from HCW that rewards repeated viewing and pulls no punches in delivering high quality and high quantity learning material.

A bit of fun

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass – RGM version

In an odd reversal of fate, OK Go – the band who bought you treadmill ballet – reprise Honda’s ‘cog’ ad (and the rest) yet up the ante.

It made me laugh, it made me watch again. So it works for me. Please do enjoy for yourself. And don’t work too hard on thinking how many takes and how many days this took to set up. Just be thankful you’re not the Steadicam operator.

Feeling my way

So Apple’s looking for somebody to ‘Take Maps to the Next Level‘. If ever there was a phrase that falls with a dull thud, there it is.

There’s nothing wrong with maps. Not Maps, just maps in general. They’re great. It’s an amazing spin on our experience of the world, where our vision is translated into a top down view of the world. We dream of flying, yet our imagination does this over abstract concepts and three dimensional experiences with ease every day. It’s not even a particularly modern or hi-tech thing, but more an innate human understanding, as the Mappa Mundi and Australian aboriginal art demonstrates.

So that’s why I have two rather un-thumbed tomes on my desk: Objective C for Dummies and iPhone Application Development for Dummies. Hey, I had a Sinclair ZX81 and learned BASIC on a Commodore PET, I’ve written Lingo that makes an Interative CD-ROM do vaguely useful things. I too can write iPhone apps!

Because maps are Old Skool.

When the iPhone 3Gs came out, with its combination of GPS and compass, I was so excited. In an interface-geek kind of way.

I want to fondle my iPhone in my pocket or wear it up my sleeve. I want to wave it hither and thither like a hyper accurate dowsing rod and follow a route that you can feel as little ‘bumps’ by rolling over a virtual string that’s been created by location-aware helper apps.

Your GPS location and your iPhone’s compass orientation work together to give a simple non-visual feedback that works in any language, in any environment. Reach out and feel the virtual guide rope. As you wave your arm around, or simply spin it in your pocket, there’s a little ‘clunk’ – not a buzz, but a short yet heavy ‘clunk’ you can rock over. Like rolling a mouse over a big bit of grit. Just like Derren Brown feeling for micro-motor anomalies in an Italian passer-by, but a lot easier and quicker; you navigate round a strange space by a sort of virtual touch.

So all I need is to work out a direction finding routine – surely built into Maps already, and tap into the APIs for the GPS, the Compass and the wobbler (sorry, the documentation I’ve read so far doesn’t say what the API refers to to make the thing go ‘clunk’).

I’ll then generate some really great marketing spin at the tail end of beta testing – do some viral video with lots of people waving stuff in front of them, the parody of dowsing, then cutting a deal into a bit of pulp fiction centering around some American city that also has ties into more European cities, then sit back and wait for the millions to roll in from the iStore.

Except I fell at the first fence.

I really shouldn’t write code. I am really bad at it, I don’t have the mathematical knowledge, the patience or the raw skill to get beyond the ‘hello world’ stage. And I haven’t enjoyed getting that far. It’s like trying to write poetry in a foreign language or write a National Anthem for an obscure musical instrument. You really need to know stuff that’s not about what you want to do. There’s so much stuff you need to know just to get over the Programming 101 that, well, really, look – I don’t do Pointers or memory management or all that stuff. I thought I could explain a bubble sort, but I got it all wrong. Programming will shorten my life, and the gravestone will have a syntax error.

So maybe I’ll make that ‘iPhone Torch’ app that’s a tenth of the quality of the worst of iStore but I will use because I WROTE IT (no I didn’t, I copied the code from an example and modified it in the hope I could make a 2900K version but settled for ‘white’). And even that will develop a memory leak and my once reliable iPhone will require a twice-weekly restart until I restore the thing from scratch.

So folks, ideas are cheap. Implementing them is really hard. Funding their implementation is extremely risky. Risk gets more reward than hard work. Hard work gets more reward than coming up with an idea. But coming up with an idea, working hard at it and backing it up at risk to yourself can be very successful… or not.

So I really hope we can take Maps to the next level. Not just super-maps, but something beyond abstracted wiggly lines. Even just a little quiet variable-pitch whistle that does the ‘warmer/colder’ childhood game to find your goal.

And no, that’s not my idea. Ian Flemming, Goldfinger, the book, not the film.

Dedo LEDzilla – a lustworthy toy

ledzillaI’ll admit right up front that one of the joys of the work I do is the acceptance that a lot of the kit I use is actually my own grown-up toybox. There are my favourites, there are some let-downs, and best of all there are the amazing press-nose-to-window must haves to yearn for. And the latest one of these is the Dedo Onboard LED Lamp, affectionately known as ‘LEDzilla’.

At first glance, it’s another in the litany of on-camera lamps – sun guns, bashers, reporter lamps, many of which are used like searchlights in the dark. As such, their lighting quality is more technical than aesthetic, being the equivalent of an on-camera flashgun for stills. Sure, it illuminates what ever is in front of the camera, but the subject ends up like a medical specimen or a startled rabbit rather than a beautiful picture. News doesn’t happen where the best light can be found, and there comes a point in any videographer’s work roster where your camera is going to need some help. But that’s where many of these devices sat.

The issue with on-camera lights and dark surroundings is one of the fundamental laws of physics: the Inverse Square Law. Basically, if you have a light close to your subject, the amount of fall-off is pretty huge, so the tip of a nose could be over exposed and the ears too dark. As distance increases, so the fall-off gets much better, but the amount of light in general falls off too, so you have to start off with more light, or focus that light into a narrow tunnel – and putting lenses on lights (Dedo owners have already guessed where I’m going with this) makes them heavy and not exactly camera-top friendly. Throwing more light without lenses requires a lot more power, and that brings back unhappy memories of doing a Chewbacca impression by wearing a couple of PAG belts to power a sun-gun and camera (as the camera assistant I might add – in the days of plumbicon ENG cameras) but I digress.

I’ve purchased a lovely little ‘helper’ lamp – the LitePanels Micro which has done a great job of filling in the shadows under eyes in office lighting, putting a little sparkle in hair if held over the top of an interviewee, or to cast a ‘screen glow’ from a computer display or laptop. Its light weight and battery power means it can be stuck in all sorts of odd places. But it’s a close-up lamp. The LEDs’ light dissipates too quickly for any sort of distance work beyond a couple of feet as a primary source, and maybe double that as a fill.

But overall power of a lamp isn’t the deciding factor. As cameras get more and more sensitive in low light, you need some control to perhaps lift an interviewee out of a dim background by washing just a leetle bit of light, not blasting them out like an out-take from close encounters. So the dimmability of a fill-in lamp is extremely desirable, to take ambient light up one stop, or to fill ambient light and take shadows up to one stop below.

So to cut to the chase: Rick and I meet up at a big job recently, and he’s got his new Dedo LEDzilla. In the daylit foyer of a big convention centre (okay, let’s name drop – the Palais des Festival in Cannes), he’s able to boost the shadows enough to give a nice glow to faces in a contrasty lighting area (with spill from neon, tungten and the like). The rushes are great! I get to play with it a bit – it’s a miniature, battery powered Dedolight. The Dedo lens system is there, focusing an intense beam for long throws, or putting out a nice wide glow with edge to edge evenness (no bright spots or dim doughnuts, or spurious colouration towards the edge). A flip down Tungsten filter doesn’t knock the lamp back much – loads of power to spare. And it seems to run forever on a Z1 battery.

Okay, so it’s a hard light source. Nothing wrong with that – key lights were hard for ages. It takes more precision to set a hard keylight as a soft key is very forgiving, but I’d be tempted to use it more in natural lighting situations as a filler, as well as a hard key in indoor situations like voxpops – even if it goes on a bendy arm hanging off the tripod to get it off the camera’s axis. It’s light enough and wire free to have in a stuff-bag, and whilst an Arri Magic Arm might be required for a mains powered Dedo, the LEDzilla is small enough to be supported on a gorillagrip or gooseneck.

And because it’s small and battery powered, it’s a great effect lamp too. We did a little setup where I could hide the lamp between a couple of props, and because the light is focused through lenses, there’s so little spill that the attached barn doors are for shaping rather than flagging – so its position is invisible.

In comparison with other LED lamps I’ve played with, it’s an incredibly well thought out tool: the lamp body is like an anglepoise lamp – getting the lamp away from the lens axis to get some modelling from shadows. The spot and flood control is incredible when you consider how small this unit is. The dimming is a lot smoother than the LitePanels and can do that ‘gleam’ barely-on setting that will lift shadows in dark environments. It will also throw a beam of light across a room with enough oomph to key an talking head.

Although I’ll be keeping the LitePanels, I know I’ll get far more use out of the LEDzilla, and I can even fantasize about having several as a miniature interview lighting setup.

Sony updates SxS drivers for Snow Leopard, some bugs remain (not any more)

UPDATE:
Snow Leopard users should now be using XDCAM Transfer version 2.11, which cures the bug with previews, and therefore brings us full compatibility with Snow Leopard.

Oyvind Stokkan has posted the following link on the DVinfo.net board for new drivers for Snow Leopard users.

http://www.sony.ca/promedia/drivers.htm

http://support.sonybiz.ca/esupport/eSupportHome.asp

Thanks to Oyvind for passing this on! I’ve installed it (the download provides an unistaller for the old one, which common sense dictates one should use before installing the new one). And no more Panics! SxS is safe to use.

Now, in an ideal world, when we register a camera like the EX1 with Sony, and they ask us what platform we edit on and which software we use, plus an email address, Sony would have checked through its database of FCP using Mac owners and emailed them to let us know this update was available. Just in passing. Hey, it would have been nice for them to email us about the problem too, but perhaps that might have been a little dangerous.

But I’d prefer to give Sony a big thumbs up for fixing this issue quickly. Snow Leopard has been in Beta for some time, and by the laws of averages, somebody probably knew about this and rang the alarm bell under the cover of a Non Disclosure Agreement, but that is just a matter of conjecture and of little importance. SxS cards now work in Snow Leopard.

All we need now is a fix for the Cache bug in XDCAM Transfer. The tool spits up an error for every clip, complaining that “The clip thumbnail could not be saved to the cache as it was an unrecognised format” – though clicking Okay builds an uncached thumbnail that needs rebuilding each time you click it. Just keep clicking and things happen, but it’s annoying enough to warrant a moan – nay, a toddler style whine – to Sony for a fix.

PS: You could use FCP’s log and whatever, but my workflow is based around easy batch naming and embedding metadata into each clip.