Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio and Shuttle

Image:  Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio

Image:  Blackmagic HyperDeck Shuttle
I'll preface this post by saying that this isn't a product review, since I've never actually used either of these devices.  We're in the market for a tapeless recording system, so I spent the morning looking at the Blackmagic site reading about these two pieces of gear.  I figured I would pass along my first impressions.

In the beginning of April 2011, Blackmagic announced production of the HyperDeck Studio and Shuttle.  In a nutshell, both of these devices will record uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 video (in a Quicktime wrapper) on removable SSD drives through SD/HD-SDI or HDMI inputs.  The Shuttle is intended to be a field recorder and will record to one SSD.  The Studio is a rack mounted unit that allows recording to two drives.  The Studio unit also has a small LCD preview monitor built in.    

At first glance, the price seems great for these two:  $995 for the Studio and $345 for the Shuttle.  The one thing to keep in mind is that they don't come with any SSD drives, and uncompressed video takes up lots of hard drive space.  As Dan May from Blackmagic explains at the NAB Show 2011, one minute of 1080i60 uncompressed 10-bit video will consume about 10GB of hard drive space.  As Dan said, using these units for shorter field recording would be fine, but long form recording would be a bear with all that uncompressed video piling up.  We're really looking for a tapeless recording solution to record longer events, like two hour lectures.  Even though we could swap hard drives in and out of the Studio deck for infinite recording, we don't have a workflow that would allow us to dump those drives to a larger storage solution while we're recording the event.  That means that we'll have to have plenty of SSD drives on hand, and at almost $500 for a 256GB SSD drive (which would only get us 25 minutes of 1080i60), the cost of this starts to add up.  Having the option to record to a compressed codec (like ProRes) would really help control the size of the recorded video, but you don't have that option with either the Shuttle or Studio.

Another downside that I noticed is neither the Shuttle or the Studio units have dedicated audio inputs.  Both capture audio that's input through the SDI or HDMI connectors.  I suppose I can see that being the case with the Shuttle due to space limitations on the unit, but the Studio should really have some balanced audio inputs.  I think this is where something like the AJA KiPro or KiPro Mini really jumps ahead of the HyperDeck Shuttle and Studio.

All in all, these are great little devices, but have a couple of flaws that will hold them back.  Hopefully in the future, Blackmagic pays the licensing fees and includes the option to record to a high quality compressed codec, like ProRes or DNxHD.

Friday, April 22, 2011

NAB 2011: One last update

My coworker, Kevin McGowan, sent me a couple of pictures of me at the NAB 2011 show, so I thought I would share: 

I'm posing with the Christie CP4220 DLP cinema projector.  It's a 22,000 lumen 4K projector!  Any projector with a chimney is A-OK in my book.

I'm showing off an Anchor Liberty powered speaker.  I might look like I'm frowning, but we actually use lots of Liberty speakers at work for events around campus.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Apple's getting what they wanted from the Final Cut Pro X preview

As Larry Jordan stresses in his great blog post, Apple's goal of last week's Final Cut Pro X preview at SuperMeet was to get a feel for how this new version will be received, and wasn't an official software release.  Their goal was to not only to get people's reactions on specific features, but to to test the waters and see if they're going to be alienating a large group of pro users with this new version.  With Adobe adding more useful features to the Production Premium suite, and Avid offering a MC5.5 discount to current Final Cut users, this has to be in the back of Apple's mind.  Even though Apple showed a graph (photo courtesy of Eric Reagan's post) depicting their dominance over Avid and Adobe, they must be slightly concerned that a poorly received FCP X will make that white line start to decline.

Related to that, those of you that are yelling about how Apple is now trying to market Final Cut to the consumer market (only $299, iMovie ripoff, etc.), rather than the pro market, can calm down a bit.  Why would Apple waste their time presenting to a room full of professional users if that won't be one of their target demographics?

Looks like they're getting exactly what they wanted: plenty of reactions from pro users, with piles of opinions coming in from every direction.  I'm guessing that some Apple interns and assistants are feverishly compiling blog posts, tweets, and other opinions splattered about the interwebs concerning the FCP X preview. 

As annoying as it all is, even all the crazy speculation that everyone's throwing out there is helpful input to Apple, since that's the wish list and hate list for most people.  If it's too late to change some of the features that everyone's complaining about or asking for, Apple could at least change the focus of their marketing by paying attention to the features that everyone's most excited about.  I guess we'll just have to wait until June to see how it all plays out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Adobe offeres "full" trial version of Premiere Pro CS5.5 in May

The news of Adobe offering a fully functional trial version of Premiere Pro CS5.5 in May is a great marketing ploy, since there's another company releasing some other editing program doohickey in June.  Plus, this will free us from all the "how come I can't edit my AVCHD footage with the CS5 trial version?" posts on the Creative Cow Premiere forum.  On second thought, those were the questions I actually knew the answer to!  Oh well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NAB 2011: Post Production World

Well, my very first NAB Show has come and gone, and in a nutshell, I had a blast.  Walking the exhibit floor was obviously important, but my main focus for the week was to immerse myself in the Post Production World classes.  My coworker, Kevin McGowan, and I arrived in Vegas on Friday night, and stayed through Thursday night.  We figured that we would make the most of our first trip to the NAB Show.  It was a tiring week, but well worth the trip, money and effort.

I ended up taking 15 PPW classes during the week, and listened to two of the PPW keynote lectures.  Not only did I learn piles of new info about many facets of video post production, but it was very motivating being around such stellar instructors as Abba Shapiro, Jeff Greenberg, Philip Hodgetts and Luisa Winters.  Heck, even the motivation to start this blog came from a class with Philip Hodgetts!  These folks could absolutely hold my attention for a three hour class with great teaching and technical skills.  They also really opened my mind up to leaning about aspects of post production that I hadn't previously thought about diving into.  Jeff Greenberg actually has me excited to order a 450 page book about video compression!  I'm pretty pumped about post production right now.

I'm going to make every attempt I can to attend the PPW classes again in the future.  With the upcoming Final Cut Pro X release, the PPW FCP classes will be packed in 2012!

For those of you that are thinking of taking PPW classes, here's a list of things to remember:

1)  Bring a's freaking cold in those rooms.
2)  Do your research before you go.  Pour through all the class descriptions and choose what class you will take, as well as a couple of alternates.  You can also leave a class and walk to another if you quickly determine it's just not for you.
3)  Take notes during the classes, but also create a "to do" list.  I have a huge list of software to download, websites to look up, podcasts and blogs to subscribe to, and books to buy....all suggested by the PPW instructors.
4)  Don't skip the PPW keynotes.  Both of them were very interesting lectures to listen to from Hollywood editors.
5)  Please don't ask those super specific questions about why your hard drive is making a clicking sound, or why Premiere crashes each time your cat walks across your keyboard.  It really slows down the entire class, but most of the instructors were great in diffusing those questions and pushing forward.
6)  Use the Creative Cow NAB Expo forum to ask questions while you're doing your pre-show research.
7)  You don't have to stick to a specific track.  As you can see below, I jumped all over between Final Cut, Adobe, and many other tracks.

If you're wondering, here's the list of PPW classes (with instructors) that I took:

Boot Camp:  Getting Started with Video Compression - Jeff Greenberg
From Expert to Master: Advanced Techniques for Final Cut Pro - Jeff Greenberg and Abba Shapiro
Color Correction with Final Cut Pro - Abba Shapiro
Live Streaming Solutions - Alex Lindsay
Optimizing Performance for Adobe Production Premium - Todd Kopriva
Great Shot Composition Every Time - Douglas Spotted Eagle
Cutting Edge Compression Techniques - Jeff Greenberg
Documentary Production Techniques - Hicks/Balog
Lightweight Lighting Solutions for Mobile Productions - James Ball
Getting Started with After Effects - Luisa Winters
Dynamic Noise Reduction and Audio Clean-up - Jeffery Fisher
The New Now: How to Grow Your Production or Post Production Business - Philip Hodgetts
Advanced Techniques for Premiere Pro - Luisa Winters
Mastering the Adobe Media Encoder - Ian Robinson
Color Correction Using Premiere Pro & After Effects - Luisa Winters

 Image:  PPW 4/10/11 keynote address: Chad Beck (editor of Inside Job)

NAB 2011: SuperMeet and the Final Cut Pro X announcement

I was one of the lucky people to attend the 2011 Final Cut Pro User Group SuperMeet event on the Tuesday of the NAB Show.  We were expecting to hear Kevin Smith and a handful of other video production professionals speak, but a week before the event, it was announced that a "special guest" had bumped all the speakers with a "special announcement."  It was obvious that it would be Apple making an announcement about the new Final Cut Pro X.  The event sold out, they had to add more seats, and all of a sudden this was the hottest ticket to have at NAB.

As we were entering the Bally's Event Center, there were even people in the hallway asking if anyone had extra tickets to sell.  You would think it was a Justin Beiber concert.  After getting our lanyards and badges, we milled around the SuperMeet exhibit floor for about an hour.  Quite a few vendors had booths set up and it was easier to speak to them here rather on the noisy, crowded NAB exhibit floor.  We bought $10 of extra raffle tickets, hopped on line (it was more a large mob of people) and waited for the theater to open.

Right around 7pm the lights dimmed, the Apple logo appeared on the projection screen, and all of us video nerds cheered.

Apple's Peter Steinauer and Randy Ubillos walked us through a Keynote presentation listing all the new features, and a decent demo of the software.  It was all just a preview the left many unanswered questions, but it really looks like an exciting piece of software.  For those that are calling it iMovie Pro, I disagree.  Wait until you use it, rather than judge it on appearance alone.  I won't list all of the new features, since others like Gary Adcock have already done a good job of reporting that news.  Some of the obvious improvements are the new 64-bit architecture, improved AVCHD and DSLR footage support, improved media organization, and time saving color correction and audio cleanup features.  The new interface looks very nice, and will take a little time to get used to.  Video and audio tracks are handled differently in this new version.  I'm sure after getting acclimated, these improvements will really speed up the editing process.

Many subjects were not addressed in the Keynote presentation or the demo:  what changes are being made to other Final Cut Studio programs, how will the new track system affect exports to other programs, will old FCP plug-ins still work, etc.  The Apple portion of the event wrapped with the announcement of a June delivery date, and $299 price tag.  Makes Adobe's $400 upgrade price for Production Premium CS5.5 seem a bit excessive, considering it's not even a "full" upgrade.  I love CS5, but I'll save my money for FCP X.

After Apple's presentation and demo, FCP User Group LA and Boston leaders Michael Horton and Daniel Bérubé introduced many of the leaders of the FCP User Groups in the US and around the world.  Many more chapters than I knew about.  It's always inspiring to be around so many enthusiastic media professionals, especially from all over the globe.

The evening ended with SuperMeet's world famous raffle, but unfortunately my coworker and I left empty handed.  Michael, Daniel, Abba Shapiro and Jeff Greenberg hosted and thousands of dollars in prizes were handed out.  We were really hoping for the hour sit down with PPW instructors Abba Shapiro and Jeff Greenberg, but no luck.  One lucky woman left that night with a $30,000 DiVinci Resolve control surface.

All that being said, the evening was a blast.  I'm looking forward to the Boston SuperMeet in October and I can't wait to get my hands on the new Final Cut Pro X.

NAB 2011: Exhibit floor

Even though my main objective at the NAB show was to take the Post Production World classes, I still managed to spend a decent amount of time wandering the massive exhibit halls.  This was my first trip to the NAB Show, but I had heard stories about the size of the show floor.  I won't even try to recap all the booths we visited and all the gear we played with, but here's some highlights from the week.

I attended the InfoComm show a couple of years ago, so coming into NAB this year I knew the importance of putting together an exhibit hall plan before I stepped in the Las Vegas Convention Center.  I had my list of exhibitors I needed to see, had my floor map all circled and marked up, yet stepped on the floor as was totally overwhelmed by the size of this show.  I spent the first half of day one wandering aimlessly in the south hall, but I was still able to hit many of the booths on my list.  Plus, the upside to just wandering is that you discover some of the smaller booths that you would never think to put on your list.

Image:  if you're agoraphobic, NAB isn't the show for you
My "best demo" of the show goes to Don Ballance at the TriCaster booth.  Not only is the TriCaster a very cool portable production studio, but Don did a great job demoing the system.  I swear that man talked for four straight days.

Image:  Don Ballance giving a TriCaster demo
The Adobe booth was a close second, with a large demo theater and a packed schedule of popular instructors.  I was able to catch Richard Harrington teaching some of the new Production Premium CS5.5 features.  He's a great trainer.  I was also able to watch an Adobe demo/class taught by another one of my favorites:  Jason Levine.

Image:  Richard Harrington demoing at the Adobe booth theater
My "craziest booth" award would have to go to the RED camera people.  They had a tattoo parlor there with people getting tattooed all week, all while shooting it on multiple RED cameras.  I guess that's their way of setting themselves apart from all the other traditional camera companies.

Image:  the live tattoo parlor at the RED booth
Sticking with the camera theme, I had lots of fun over in the ARRI booth playing with a fully loaded Alexa.

Image:  Most likely the only time I'll get my hands on the ARRI Alexa
The award for "sexiest product" has to go to the Grass Valley Kayenne video switcher.  I guess I'm a sucker for buttons and pretty colors.

Image:  flashy Grass Valley Kayenne switcher
My "camera that I most want to play with" award goes to the Phantom v641 high speed camera.  2,560 FPS at 1080!  I could easily make my own home version of Mythbusters with that toy.

Image:  Phantom v461 high speed camera
I was glad to see a few companies jumping on the Thunderbolt bandwagon.  Promise Technology has some nice looking four and six drive RAIDs coming out this summer that use a Thunderbolt connection, as does G-Technology.

Image:  Thunderbolt is coming to G-Technology drives
My coworker and I were keeping an eye open for any camera mounted recording devices.  We really liked the AJA Ki Pro and Ki Pro Mini.  SDI and HDMI inputs, balanced audio inputs and records to Apple ProRes for our workflow.  On the higher end of things is the impressive Cinedeck Extreme.  With a nice built-in preview monitor, it will record to ProRes, Avid DNxHD or CineForm.  Too much for what we're looking for, but fun to play with.

Image:  Cinedeck Extreme
Since we work closely with the IT department, who handles storage, encoding and streaming of the lecture video we acquire, we also visited many booths peddling ingest, encoding, shared storage, and streaming services.  Two companies that caught our eye were building4media and Edit Share.

Image:  Edit Share's shared storage solutions
Since we work for a university that has hundreds of classrooms, we also were interested in remote camera control for installed cameras.  We spent a good deal of time at the Telemetrics booth getting a feel for their camera control units and pan/tilt heads that might integrate with our existing Crestron control systems.

Image:  Telemetrics RCP control panel
We spent most of our time in the south hall, where post production and distribution & delivery were housed.  The central hall (video acquisition & production) was also a popular spot to find us.  We really didn't spend much time in the north hall (management & systems), since we really deal with the video acquisition and post end of things.  We ended up making the most of our show floor time, almost closing the place down on Thursday afternoon.

All in all, the exhibit floor was exhausting, but it was great checking out all the new gear and services.  Looking at the increased attendance this year (92,708 people, up 4,600 compared to last year), I would say the video production industry is a pretty healthy one right now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

First post!

OK, I've made the dive into the blogging world.  I figured that since I spend most of my day thinking and talking about video production, post production, and all things tech, I might as well write it all down.  If you use an RSS reader, make sure to subscribe to my blog's RSS feed to stay on top of my updates.  I love getting in technical discussions, so please feel free to post comments and let me know how you feel.