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“Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”

Let me ask a silly but timely question:  Pretend you were a race car driver in NASCAR. You were in the middle of a race, flying around the track at 190 MPH, and a message popped up on your dashboard that told you that new firmware for your fuel system was available and ready to install, would you click OK?

Historically, meaning as little as a few years ago, editing and post production suites were built and deployed as a completely designed system not unlike a race car.  Under it’s branded and packaged “system” exterior, it was made up of components that, when described individually, were familiar to us.  It had one or many CPUs, operating system, memory, storage and I/O and several specific software applications, waveform/vector scopes and video source/record decks.  In addition, you would certainly have accurate monitoring of audio and video signals, ideally, in an acoustically-treated suite with appropriate lighting and wall color that would not confuse or deceive your visual cortex.

This turnkey package was very tight, in large part because the bits and pieces worked only in a small but specific “compatibility matrix”.  As a result, it was always understood and firmly communicated that you NEVER update software in the middle of a production, you disable Auto-Update (to satisfy the previous requirement) and that you work with and depend upon capable experts before and during planned upgrades. Upgrades, in truth, need to be considered full re-designs in the sense that there is a delicate inter-dependency between all components and interrupting this “matrix” will have a series of consequences, and unless your name is Neo, you may not even realize that the matrix exists! (Sorry, had to throw that in there.) Consequences come in many sizes and shapes.  Some, you may never even notice or feel and some may only effect you if a second or third seemingly unrelated event interacts with the dormant first consequence.  If the majority of customers work only on a stand-alone computer with the most common of add-on devices, then the lowest common denominator challenges or conflicts get addressed and corrected early, often during beta test cycles. Companies like Apple and others have also done a great job intentionally or unintentionally inducing Pavlovian Conditioning with frequent and ever-improving app updates that have taught us that Updates = Good.  Many of us treat these update requests like a new message from a friend, a gift or a present that randomly appears and, best of all, is free!  Why wouldn’t you do it?  Often it corrects and patches flaws and security risks that we didn’t even know existed (until the update told us).  After all, who doesn’t want to keep up with the latest and greatest? But beware, the editing and graphics ecosystem that you have built, however streamlined it appears, is more fragile and requires more planning than a typical computer or smart phone.  Major operating system updates – like Apple Mavericks 10.9 – change a multitude of things, for reasons that have nothing to do with you or your business. Here is an example advisory for some high speed, external media readers that came out upon the release of Apple Mavericks: WARNING Qio E3 is not currently compatible with OS X 10.8.5 and 10.9 (Mavericks). Sonnet is working on a fix for this issue. Qio E3 is compatible with OS X 10.8.0 through 10.8.4 when using Qio E3 software v1.2.1c and later. Until a new driver is ready (1.2.2), do not upgrade your computer’s OS to 10.8.5 or 10.9.” Personally, I do not blame 3rd party board and hardware manufacturers for this.  A computer is a complex beast, designed for many markets and many uses.  In our high performance, time sensitive, video production world, we depend on our computers to connect with dozens of speciality devices.  Somehow, we have collectively come to expect that all parties involved have been handed a rule book that defines accurately and immediately, all use cases and all code corrections.  In truth, companies like Apple are famous for not providing detailed information about code or methodology changes that may break or change the way pieces or components behave.  There is limited access for developers to beta OS releases and it is next to impossible for a hardware company to run structured quality control tests on all possible configurations. So, in summary, I offer a few polite words of caution: • DO NOT be tempted to hit that Upgrade, Update or Download button without first KNOWING why you need it and what it might affect. • PLAN for upgrades with production and business calendars in mind.

• SCHEDULE downtime and testing as part of the upgrade.

• BACKUP the current system before an upgrade.

• TEST all of the devices and software after the upgrade.

Thanks for listening.  I hope it helps. Tom Talbot, t.talbot@rule.com

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CANON U.S.A. ADDS TWO NEW CAMERAS TO THE CINEMA EOS SYSTEM: THE EOS C500 4K DIGITAL CINEMA CAMERA AND THE EOS C100 DIGITAL VIDEO CAMERA

Two New Camera Models Fill Out a Well-Rounded Cinema EOS Line-up with High-End 4K and Entry-Level HD Camera Solutions Canon issued a press release this morning. The full text of the press release can be found here. Here is a quick bullet list of highlights from the release: Canon EOS C500 4K Digital Cinema Camera Estimated list price of $30,000. Available October 2012 C500 is Canon’s high-end professional 4K (4096 x 2160-pixel) cinema camera capable of originating uncompressed RAW output for external recording C500 and C500 PL cameras output 4K resolution to external recorders as a 10-bit uncompressed RAW data stream as well as output quad full-HD (3840 x 2160), 2K (2048 x 1080), full HD (1920 x 1080), and other imaging options. When shooting in 2K, the C500 and C500 PL cameras employ a 12-bit RGB 4:4:4 signal format from one to 60 frames-per-second (fps) For high-speed shooting and slow motion capture the cameras can be set to a 10-bit YCrCb 4:2:2 mode, and can output 4K or 2K video up to 120 fps. Simultaneously record a 50 Mbps Full HD video file in-camera to the user’s choice of one or two CF cards. Canon EOS C100 Digital Video Camera Estimated list price of $7,999. Available November 2012 Compact, affordable entry-level model delivering full 1920×1080 HD video AVCHD codec -24Mbps in full HD 1920 x 1080 and 4:2:0 color space Records to dual SD cards EF mount ONLY 85% of the size of the EOS C300 Super 35mm 16:9 CMOS ISO range of from 320 to 20,000 includes a push auto iris function, one-shot auto focus (or full manual focus and exposure control), a multi-angle 3.5-inch LCD control panel, a high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF), built-in ND filters, dual XLR inputs, locking HDMI output. We look forward to talking in more detail about these two new cameras and will no doubt be featuring a future Learning Lab as soon as demo units become available. Tom Talbot Director of Technology

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Observations from NAB 2012

Each year that I attend NAB I usually end up having two or three words that sum up the most popular or most discussed trends at the show. This year I would have to say Thunderbolt and 4K were the buzzword winners.  It was also interesting to see companies suddenly dive into market segments that used to be “reserved”.  Blackmagic Design is suddenly a camera manufacturer and Canon is suddenly a production monitor company.  Go Pro offers WiFi and high speed goes handheld with the TS3Cine. was everywhere this year. The AJA Ki Pro QUAD, Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera, and of course drives of all sorts.  There was even a 30 meter optical Thunderbolt cable from Sumitomo. The term “4K Capable” means that external 4K recorders can be attached to such cameras as the Canon EOS C500 and 1D C, Sony FS700, F65 and others.  Canon showed a prototype of a 4K production monitor that looked remarkable. LED lighting is now ready for production use. Notably absent this year – 3D! Fujinon showed a lightweight 19mm-90mm PL cine zoom lens with a detachable servo drive unit Angenieux also showed a Servo unit compatible with thei lightweight Optimo line : Optimo 45-120, Optimo 28-76, Optimo 15-40 for Film and Digital cinema, Optimo DP 16-42 and Optimo DP 30-80 for Digital Cinema.

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A Note for our Existing Sony Anycast Owners…

Sony has recently announced that their AWSG500E Anycast Station Live Content Producer will be discontinued.  For many years the Anycast has been a “go to” portable video switcher, audio mixer, PTZ camera controller & more in a self-contained, briefcase sized package. Many of our customers over the years have used it and continue to rely on it for day-to-day use in events, public access, education, houses of worship, and a whole range of productions.  For most of our customers, once they have used the Anycast they continue to use and rely on it. Normally, our instinct is to jump right into the latest and greatest technology, especially when we receive news of a discontinuation.  I am not saying that there are not alternative replacements on the market right now but I will say that the form factor and capability of the Sony Anycast are not easily matched. If you have used and enjoyed the Sony Anycast and/or if you have established environments that already rely on the Anycast then it is not too late to purchase one.  Our sales team can still quote and sell you an Anycast including any optional boards needed.  Please reach out to them at rulesales@rule.com for more info and to request a quote before it is too late! Sony has a excellent track record for servicing and supporting products long after they have ceased to exist as a sales product.  Our Rental Department owns many of these systems and we are not planning on removing them from rotation anytime soon. I hope this helps! Tom Talbot – Director of Technology

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First Impressions of the Canon CinemaEOS C300

Coming off of our hugely successful Pub Night here at Rule Boston Camera last Thursday night, I finally have a few minutes to sit down and pass along my initial observations of the Canon C300 and C300PL cameras.

MODULAR DESIGN & ERGONOMICS

When I first got to handle the C300 in November, I did not know if a modular design would be better than a single integrated design.  The first thing that comes to mind is that the bits and pieces, or modules as I have been calling them, could easily get misplaced if you were spending too much time setting up and breaking down “stuff” for any given shot.   I have started to reconsider this opinion thinking that different users and different productions might configure the camera to satisfy the shooting style rather than to satisfy the  shot.  That said, I tried adding some modules onto the camera and throwing it into a camera bag to see how much stuff could be left on without much fuss.  It is a bit tall rather than long (depending on the lens) but with a simple tripod plate screwed onto the camera I found that I could move from tripod to handheld to and then to camera bag just by removing the LCD module.

We will have to look into camera bag options that are a bit more “bowling ball bag” shaped…

I know that we will see lots of 3rd party accessories shortly so stay tuned!

In its most stripped down state, you simply pop in a Canon 955 battery, side grip and a lens and you can shoot using the small EVF and no microphone.

From there you can attach the LCD module which also gives you 2 XLR connections and media playback controls.  There is a shotgun mic holder on this module as well.  The module connects via two 20 pin limo connectors that appear to be totally unique.  These connectors provide signals for the LCD and controls as well as to the XLR mic/line audio inputs.  This is a small 1/8th mini mic connector on the camera body as well but I suspect that may be limited in quality.

Additionally Canon provides a handle which can be used with or without the LCD module.

LENS MOUNTS

Very simply, when you purchase or rent the Canon C300 you have to commit to either the EF lens mount version, called the C300, OR you have to commit to the PL lens mount version called the C300PL.  Canon deliberated this for quite some time before concluding that a super-accurate and mechanically sound lens mount was more important and beneficial to the user than in interchangeable adapter solution.  I agree with this when you consider that sacrificing tight design for flexibility and a broader audience may reduce the camera’s performance.

XF CODEC

Factoids on paper sometimes appear more powerful and important than they actually are.  Since 100 is a larger number than 35, 100 must be “better”, right?   Of course, the word “better” has no context and is very misleading.  This was often first sentence in a much more in-depth video signal compression discussion (but I digress). The Canon 4K imager does a fantastic job delivering a full 1920×1080 resolution for the Red and Blue components and actually delivers 2 channels of 1920×1080 Green in such a way to minimize moire and retain a super sampled luminance signal.   This full 4:4:4 signal is offered to the signal processing engine.  Ultimately from there the signal is fed to both the HDSDI and HDMI outputs as well as to the compression engine packaged as 8-bit.  In-camera recording to CF cards is up to 50Mbits/sec 4:2:2 wrapped in MXF. Some people are concerned that 8-bit is not as good a 10-bit and, in a vacuum, this is true.  Most of the current in-camera recorders out there encode an 8-bit signal of some type.  Some external records can be setup to record a 10bit signal but it depends on the CODEC. While demoing the C300 to a large group at WGBH the other day it was wisely pointed out that HDCAM is also an 8-bit recording format and HDCAM is the delivery format of choice for what we see every day for PBS broadcasting. Like most things, you be the judge of what is objectionable and what is water cooler speculation.

MENUS

I will devote a future blog entry  to the C300 menu structure but I can say that the interface was very intuitive and familiar.  The menu can be superimposed on the EVF, the LCD or the external outputs.   In the case of the external connectors you do not get all superimposed info such as  WFM, VECT or some other items.  There is also a very handy rear display below the EVF that gives you access to ISO/Gain, White Balance, and shutter angle.  I found this to be the place where I would quickly choose the Function button and toggle between and change these core settings.

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Multiple Canon C300 (and C300PL) in our Shop for New England’s big unveiling Thursday night!

Picture this… I am sitting in a staff meeting and I see, through the glass door, a cart with 4 cardboard boxes from Fed Ex roll by headed my way. I know that I am expecting a delivery of 4 Canon C300 cameras for our Special January Pub Night with Larry Thorpe. For those of you not aware, Larry is Senior Director of Professional Engineering and Solutions at Canon.  He will be presenting  an overview of the C300 followed by Q&A.  By the way, if you are interested in joining us, it goes from 6-8pm. and you can RSVP to events@rule.com Just like a kid on Christmas day, I rush to open these boxes.  I was fortunate to be invited by Canon to attend their grand unveiling in Hollywood on Nov. 3rd so I already had my hands on the camera but I knew that today, I would be able to spend some real time tinkering with these and in quantity! We received two EF mount and two PL.  We will be showing them in various configurations – from bare bones DSLR-like handheld configs to fully built-up studio style cinema rigs with Optimo zoom cinema lenses. Very shortly I will follow this up with a more detailed blog about my observations, but in summary, the C300 is a winner for sure!  It is elegant, logical, sturdy and tight.  Its modular design does not feel like you are taking apart a child’s toy and the more I played with it the more I understood that a lot of consideration was given to each module. The pistol grip side handle has a 4 pin electronic connector cable that plugs in before you set your angle for mounting. The mount itself is a very sturdy metal thread which gives you confidence in its reliability. The menu and controls are straightforward in intuitive.  You have options to label in ISO or Gain, Shutter in Degrees or fractions, White balance  presets displayed in iconic sun or light bulb form or in kelvin (K) The base sensitivity is shown at [850], for use when utilizing Canon Log, and as most of you have already heard it goes up to an astounding 20,000 ISO!  This of course doesn’t mean that you should always shoot this way nor does it mean that there is no amplifier noise but when the judgement of “acceptable”  is yours to make for some shots, its is nice to know you’ve got it when you need it. The EF mount with one of our 24-70 EF lenses looked great and of course an Optimo on the PL version looks stunning. –  Tom Talbot Director of Technology

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The Canon EOS C300 and Project Imagin8ion’s WHEN YOU FIND ME really had an impact on me..

– How do I begin… I just watched When You Find Me, which made its debeut a few days ago as part of Canon’s Project Imagin8ion.

Described as a Hollywood short film inspired by 8 winning photographs chosen by Ron Howard and Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, When You Find Me was shot with Canon’s soon to be released Cinema EOS C300 camera. As a father of two daughters, similar in age to the girls in this film, and husband to a wife who I would never want to be without, I will publicly admit, it moved me -tears and all!  And, I think, for all the right reasons. Within one minute, I totally forgot why I was actually watching it (which was to study how the Canon EOS C300 actually performed ) and I was completely enshrouded in the story, the characters, the mood – everything.  I felt so much, for what the girls were feeling, for what parents feel for their children, and how each of us carries our own fear, hope, regret, and ultimately, relief.  I was quickly overwhelmed by simultaneous emotions… it was powerful, I didn’t expect it at all. This short film simply reminded me why I went into this business in the first place! My apologies for being sappy on this post.  That said – Thank you Ron Howard, thank you Bryce, and thank you to everyone involved in this project – especially our friends at Canon! – Tom Talbot Director of Technology Rule Boston Camera

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Early Sneak Peak at the Panasonic AG-HPX250

Over the last few days we at Rule Boston Camera have been evaluating the forthcoming Panasonic AG-HPX250. As a matter of fact, I think we may be among the very first in the country to get our hands on it and we are happy to pass along our first impressions. Working with Jason Potz, one of our engineers here at Rule, we setup the camera at one of our camera test stations.  We decided to throw the HPX170 camera next to it for comparison. For those who may not be aware, the HPX170 essentially an HVX200A but without the DV tape mechanism.  The 170 / 200  share a lower effective resolution imager of 1.1 million active pixels with a spatial offset but the new HPX250 offers what is often called a Full HD imager of 2.2 million pixels! It is also worth noting that packed inside this Compact HD styled camcorder is the very impressive 4:2:2 10-bit sampled  AVC-Intra 100 codec.   To date, this higher quality recording has been reserved for “full sized” ENG type camera bodies costing thousands of dollars more. On the surface, you could consider the AG-HPX250 a replacement for the very successful and respected HVX200A but with several important improvements that I have outlined below. Here are some of the key improvements over the HVX200A or HPX170:

  • Longer 22x lens but with the same 3.9mm wide angle as the HPX170

  • Full HD 1920×1080 1/3” 3-MOS 2.2 Million pixel (times three) imager

  • Timecode and Genlock connectors via BNC useful for multicam studio shooting

  • 10-bit, 4:2:2 AVC-Intra 100, AVC-Intra 50, DVCPro HD & Standard Definition record options

  • 720p or 1080i

  • HD-SDI and HDMI outputs

  • 2x P2 Card Slots

  • Separate control connectors for remote Zoom and Focus

  • Smaller form factor and lower cost battery system than HPX-370 but with many of the same capabilities

  • List price of $5,995

After looking at the body size, lens, menu system, external connectivity and price, it seems to me that this is a very smart camera choice for Public Access, Education, and Government customers that desire a fairly low cost solution that can easily perform dual duty as both a studio camera by day and a roving compact HD camcorder by night. Tom Talbot – Director of Technology