IBC is FINALLY over…and I am on my way home. I figured that during this long flight I could take some time to write about what I saw…what impressed me, what didn’t, what is new, what isn’t. If the in-flight movie (Ocean’s 13) was working properly (no audio) I probably wouldn’t be doing this. I do have my iPod, but the of the movies I encoded for it that I have left, I forgot to get the subtitling so all I hear is Japanese and Chinese in BIG sections of KILL BILL. And I have no window seat to enjoy the ocean view.

SO…what I will do then is write. I planned on doing this anyway, but now seems like the perfect opportunity.

First, RED. They finally started shipping the RED camera last week, and a few people have their hands on them. They only have the RED Flash media to record to (4.5 min or so), but they are shooting. The cameras lack the ability to record audio on the camera, but the camera does have the inputs, so that is something that they will address with a firmware update in the near future. On the REDUser website, there is a place where people can post their test shots. I went to the demo where a nice man named Mark-Allen gave a workflow demo on how to get RED footage into various edit systems. Since they are very friendly with Apple, of course it works well with FCP. But they also have options for Avid and Adobe. The camera records to a format called RED RAW, which is wavelet based and can record 4K footage at 26MB/s. That is one VERY EFFICIENT codec. “virtually lossless” is what they called it. 2 hours of recording to 320GB hard drives that they are still working on.

They have two tools to get footage out of the RED RAW and into workable formats. REDCINE is a stand alone application that has many many tools. This allows you to view the footage on the set, and make some color correction changes for a “one light” transfer, making sure the footage looks decent before you import it. You can create custom looks and save them (Graeme Nattress made a few that they have as presets). From there you can encode to ANY quicktime codec you happen to have installed on your computer. ProRes, DVCPRO HD, DV if you want…uncompressed (but why?)..and if you have the Avid codecs, you can go to the DNxHD codec or anything you happen to need. The second tool they offer is RED ALERT, which is just a pared down version of REDCINE. Basic conversion tools without all the color correction aspects. Originally intended as an internal tool only, it was so useful that they made it available to the public. Another way you can import is via the LOG AND TRANSFER option in Final Cut Pro. This option will be in a future release of FCP (due shortly) and allows you to have access to all the controls available there, IN and OUT points, importing and then instant access to the footage.

After the demo I asked the question apparently on everyone who stayed behind to ask questions…what does RED recommend archiving to? Because, of course, there is no tape…it is all data. I don’t know if this is the official word from RED as to what they are doing, but Mark-Allen mentioned LTO drives as the better bet to go with. Hard drives are just too volatile (don’t we know it!) and HD DVD or Blu-Ray might not work for the LONG haul. WHo knows how good they are for? They are new. But LTO backup has been in use by credit card companies since the 1970s…over 30 years…and the data is still readable. So that does indeed seem like a very secure way to go. Expensive for the initial purchase (the drives go for over $1000), but in the long run, they’ll pay for themselves.

Whew…that was a lot about RED. Apparently they did fix the audio on OCEAN’S 13…but I missed half the movie now, so…onward.

Sony XDCAM EX. Small camera size that is on the level of the HVX-200. This camera too is tapeless, recording to Express 34 cards….EXPRESS 34! Meaning that you can use your MacBook PRO to offload the footage. Unlike P2 where you need an older Mac, or some VERY EXPENSIVE Panasonic P2 card reader. Now, I am not a camera guy (although I used to be), so I don’t know many of the intricate details, but I was impressed by a few options. First, the pros:

It records ALL of the formats that the larger XDCAM cameras record. 25Mbps, 35Mbps in the usual MPEG-2 4:2:0 format at 1440×1080 or 960×720. But it ALSO records the new 50Mbps FULL RASTER 1920×1080 format. NICE. And the image is very crisp.

It records to the Express34 cards, like I mentioned. So importing the footage will be easier and less expensive than other similar cameras.

A future release of FCP (like, the NEXT one) will support direct XDCAM IMPORT via the Log and Transfer option. No more relying on the Sony software to convert the footage. Apple was a bit looser lipped than normal…which is nice.

The main handle SWIVELS. You know, the one you grip when you hold the camera, the one with the BIG zoom controls? This is great for putting the camera in really high (above your head) hand-held positions and really low (below your waist) hand-held positions. Heck, you don’t need to be a shooter to see the advantage of that.

CONS? MPEG-2 Long GOP 4:2:0. This just isn’t a great codec. Yes, you can convert to ProRes when you import, so you have better control over the image. I am glad, because I’d hate to work with that or HDV natively. Yeah yeah, I know many of you are and are doing fine. Whatever. It is a cumbersome format to work with, and I count my lucky stars that I have yet to have the pleasure. Many grumblings from co-workers and friends however. FIXED LENS. Whatchagonna do? The HVX-200 and Canon XL-H1 have this too. Seems to be the trend among the sub-$5000 cameras.

Still…the COOL THING? The camera will cost $4000. Yep…you read right…$4000. And the 16GB cards will go for under $1000. Tow of them and the camera will set you back under $6000. CHEAPER than the HVX-200. Nice to have competition out there. And when Red gets the Red Pocket Cam out…there goes the neighborhood.

EDIT: I AM GETTING MANY E-MAILS AND COMMENTS THAT THE PRICING I QUOTED SEEMS LOW. THAT ACCORDING TO STUFF THEY HAVE HEARD AND READ THE CAMERA WOULD BE PRICED AROUND $6000 U.S. NOW, SEEING THAT I WAS IN EUROPE, I MIGHT HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE PRICE IN EUROS. WHICH MAKES SENSE, 4000.00 EURO COMES OUT TO ABOUT $6000 U.S. WE’LL SEE WHEN THE CAMERA IS INTRODUCED. THANKS GUYS.

So…with the Panasonic HVX-200 and P2, the Sony XDCAM EX and Express 34, and Red and the RedFlash, RedRam and Red Drive…ALL recording tapeless…we are moving towards more and more tapeless acquisition. The networks better pay attention to this. Several of them, including Discovery whom I work with a lot, still REFUSE to accept data files. They insist that the footage reside on tape and that the tape TC be referenced in the project files. This means that you have to shoot P2, transfer it to tape, then recapture that tape in order to work with it. This pretty much negates the cost savings you have shooting P2 in the first place, because of the Deck Rental/Purchase required to do this. So pay attention Discovery, National Geographic…the future is tapeless!

Apple? I didn’t notice anything new. I heard that they came out with a new version of Logic, but I missed it. And Avid? Not there. Panasonic? There, but only had meeting rooms. No camera displays. And I wanted to check out the 500 cameras, since that is what we were considering shooting our next series on. But noooo. Darn Panasonic. And I couldn’t find MOTU either. I was looking forward to seeing the V3HD in person and ask questions and get answers, but nope, they weren’t there.

Hmmm…Ocean’s 13 is finally over, and the next movie is starting (8 hour flight). This one is the new Fantastic Four film…but now the airplane seems to be suffering from electrical issues. My reading light is going on and off, the call button from several seats is ringing at random, and the audio is cutting in and out on the film, and the picture is flickering like mad. This is NOT a good sign when one is flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Getting me a little anxious really. I’d better get back to writing to get my mind off of this. And try to finish before my batter runs out. So no more blathering.

AJA – The I/O HD was there in all it’s glory…but still not shipping. Two weeks is the word now. I know, this is difficult to take for all those that want one and need one now. But really, would you like a WORKING model in two weeks? Or one now that doesn’t work reliably? I vote for the former. But I chatted with Jon Thorne and Gary Adcock and caught up. Jon playing some ULTIMATE AVENGERS cartoon on the laptop that I now have to go find and rent….it looks cool. HULK SMASH! (he fights with Capt. America)

BlueFish 4:4:4. OK, I mention these guys because I recall considering them when shopping for a capture card about 4 years ago. They had a good rep. And I found out from a couple people at IBC that the BlueFish guys are the old CINEWAVE people…off on their own after Pinnacle was bought by Avid (or maybe a little before that). ANYWAY, their stuff was VERY expensive. And it really didn’t look like it offered anything different from the MUCH CHEAPER Black-Magic and AJA options. They even had an HD SDI/DVI converter that was easily triple what the HD Link Pro costs. Not sure why they are so expensive. Aiming high?

EDIT SHARE. These guys were right next to me (I was working the CalDigit Booth) and I finally ambled over there on the third day. They were pretty busy the first two days. So I asked for a demo, and I got one. This program takes the “Avid Unity” approach to project organization. When a bin is open by the owner, it is LOCKED and others can open the bin, but not make changes. Well, it goes a bit further and makes is so even if that bin ISN’T open, you cannot make changes to that bin. Projects for each user is stored locally on their system, but all systems can see it. If they want access to a cut so they can make changes, they first copy the bin to a transfer section called UNPROTECTED BINS, then copy it onto their own system. This is pretty handy, so that you can see what the other person is doing on their, so that you can make your section match, or use footage from their section (as a tease out for your show act, for example)…or whatever.

Each “bin” is in fact a separate project file. That is how they organize this. And it is a neat approach. But If I have too many bins open at once, the Browser fills up. But you can have one bin for CUT, and another for footage…you can have a main project (bin) of the source footage that everyone shares. But that footage bin would have to be “owned” by one person, meaning others couldn’t modify it.

OK, how does it work? You launch the EditShare program which then launches FCP as well. And then (this I like) you choose the USER and the Project you are working on. This is VERY handy. And depending on the project you choose, Edit Share assignes media drives to that project, so if you quit one project and open another, then program switches what media drives it then accesses and writes to. VERY nice. On the Finder level I saw how it worked. Open the server drive and you see folders for the users that in turn contain project folders than contain project files that are your bins.

While I did find some of this useful (projects pointing to specific hard drives), overall I wasn’t too blown away. After working at a company that had a HUGE FCP shared storage network and seeing how they do things, it really isn’t that difficult to work that way. This might be for people who really want and need the Unity way of doing things. But I was impressed by one thing. And this is huge. An 8TB 3U shared storage network option I asked about (including the server) costs $23,000. Oh, that is a lot…but the impressive part? NO SEAT LICENSE! Sold as it you have the ability to add 16 seats…for no additional cost. I found that VERY impressive. And while I’d have to work with the Edit Share software, it isn’t too painful..I could learn to like it. If you have one seat, you could do uncompressed HD work, the more seats you add, the bandwidth drops, as expected. But in a shared workflow environment you won’t have all stations working with uncompressed HD. You would have the footage stored in an offline codec like DV or Offline RT, so that you have room for LOTS of footage, and so many people can access it. I’d have a separate station with a separate drive set up (HDPro from CalDigit…read my review) for Onlining.

And this works for Avid, Adobe CS3, and FCP…the biggies. Overall I was impressed and liked it. And would consider it as an option. Very impressive. I was able to grab a T-shirt as the show closed down. The only swag I was able to swing.

OOP, on reserve power. Gotta go.