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High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers
A How To Guide for Digital Filmmakers
Welcome all! This is my blog to share my latest research,
thoughts, etc. on utilizing HD for independent filmmaking.
YES, I am available for consulting
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
R3D2DPX.exe is a Windows (only) shell-based tool that converts R3D files into the following formats:
CineForm Intermediate (4:2:2)
Think of R3D2DPX as a format converter for RAW data, where in this case RAW means the Bayer sensor data.
R3D2DPX does not extract color profile or white balance information from the R3D file.
It assumes that all color processing will be performed later.
If color processing as performed in RedCine is necessary for your workflow, then continue to use RedCine!
It is a good and healthy sign that a third party is offering a conversion tool, and especially for the Windows side of the world.
I emailed David Taylor of Cineform some questions and here's what I got back:
Question 1.) My understanding was that Redcine could convert to any standard installed codec - is it not possible to write to the formats R3DDPX supports directly from Redcine?
Not completely, no. RedCine will only support Quicktime based codecs, there are still limitations to that interface. Also PC users of CineForm primarily seek AVI files. When we do use QuickTime under RedCine, we are one of the few codecs to support 16-bit per channel RGBA, yet the memory footprint for 4K frame seems make the conversion unreliable for many users. It could be running out of memory due to issues inherent to all 32-bit applications, or issues with the graphics card or drivers, it has been hard to debug for the users that experience this. On RedUser.net it is the repeated frame or failure to write problem. There is also been issue that RedCine can't export 16-bit per channel Quicktime to any codec at 4096 in my testing, yet 4095 works in many cases (I've also tested using Sheer to confirm this.) I'm sure these glitches will be addressed, but there are presently in RedCine Build 74, as tested on Mac and PC.
2.) If not, what is the barrier to making that happen?
Just like us, I'm sure their software team is extremely busy. So time is the barrier.
3.) Under what circumstances does this offer capabilities that are unique or better than Redcine?
It has a significantly lower system requirement. It will prefer conversions without needing the GPU, therefore there is no minimum system requirement for the graphics card. This helps those with existing blade servers/render farms that may have underpowered GPUs. I think it threads better for higher performance, although each system will perform differently, so I would suggest users try for themselves. Direct AVI encoding, the preference for most CineForm users. And finally, and likely the most controversial, it can directly transcode to CineForm RAW for significantly smaller files than CineForm 444, at the same quality. We have always had the issue that RAW cameras should not develop to RGB, as that increases the datarate 3 times, without any quality benefit. Both Redcode and CineForm RAW exploit this efficiency, yet the Redcode workflow still in its early days, CineForm RAW has been running real-time under Premiere Pro (PC) for a long time, and is recently supported under FCP.
In the end it is about workflow choice. RedCine does so much more than R3D2DPX, but the CineForm tools simplifies the bridge into workflow and NLEs not yet supported by Red.
Thanks to David for taking the time to respond.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Full integration into all Iridas apps for Cineform's RAW & RGB formats. Useful. More useful if Apple (working on it) and Avid (no way) supported it.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
You might also be interested in reading Mark Allen's report from the Red presentation at Cinegear as well.
UPDATE - John Ott also posted his own thoughts on CineGear at Making the Movie: CineGear Expo 2007
Below is Bruce's report:
Codex digital recorder - pictures included. Light, small, nice, takes standard Anton Bauer battery power. The "mag" seems to be 2.5" notebook hard drives - they confirmed it was running RAID-3. Cost is supposedly competitive with a HDCAM SR deck. It has optical in and will be able to take RAW data from the Red, do very light JPEG2000 compression (lighter than REDCODE) and store it. It has tons of cool options - ethernet output, H264 proxies, etc. But you get the idea. Cool high-end recorder. They also had huge big uncompressed boxes, fancy workflow solutions, etc. But as far as indies go, I can see us renting a Codex for a day, offloading via Ethernet to our PC at night (their software can output all usual formats - dpx, Quicktime, etc), then returning it the next day. Pricing not set yet - I heard $60,000? Don't quote me.
Mike note - Matthew Jeppsen over at FreshDV has some more on this new device as well, and I regretfully only folded my own coverage into the Friday Blogwad.
Wafian - I saw the HR1 and HR2 boxen. Big fellas, but nicely packaged - fine for a studio or greenscreen shoot. They are renting them - they quoted me something like $500 (per 3-day week?) for the HR1 or $800 for the HR2 (not sure, need to confirm that). They also had a prototype smaller box (picture included). It will run off DC power (yaay). The final one will have a larger screen, be more compact, etc. August. Basically, they are the indie equivalent of the Codex. And friendly too.
Phantom HD camera - I played with the Phantom HD camera (you know, the 1000fps 2k one) at Photo-Sonics (just one of the places that had it). Very very nice, very compact, etc. Records to built-in RAM - can store 4.5 seconds worth of 1000fps 2k x 1k frames. RAM upgrade coming soon. You can review the footage on camera, scrolling through it with a little scroll wheel, etc. It shows you how far you are through it, how much space is used, etc. Connect it via ethernet to dump frames to computer. Rental quote from someone was $2500 per day including lens (a nice 20:1 Cooke, I think) and laptop, I think. Claimed ASA is approx 600 - they were shooting footage live at the show (mix of sunlight & shade) at 1000fps and were at around a 5.6 and 2/3.
Dalsa - remember there are 2 branches - the 4k cine camera, plus the rental department. First off, the cine camera - they had footage playing. It looked incredible. Latitude, etc was nice, shots were very clean, no fixed pattern noise, etc. They had one shot that was available light at night. Wow. Some noise of course but just looked like a slightly high speed film stock. Advantages of this camera over Red are claimed higher latitude, plus definite lack of CMOS motion warping and better sensor alignment for 2:35 (theirs sensor is 2:1 aspect ratio I think?). Next, the rental dept - for a start, yes they are renting Reds.
MIKE UPDATE Tuesday afternoon - Dalsa contacted me to say this is not the case. "We have no plans to rent Red cameras at our facility in LA." according to their spokesman. Apologies for any inaccuracies....or are they? See other update end of article. End update, resuming Bruce's coverage...
I asked them whether you could do something mostly on Red and then switch to their 4k camera for a few days. They obviously felt that their camera's image quality was higher but said yes, as long as you were not cutting directly from one to the other, it'd probably work. Finally, lenses - they had their slightly-anamorphic lenses on display - I played with a 50mm 1.4 one attached to their camera. It was very nice and had that nice oval bokeh that we love out of anamorphics. On a side note - ah man - love that optical viewfinder. Anyway... they are aiming at a set of 6, all under T2.0. Yes, they are PL mount, yes they are for rent. Yes, you could use them on a Red - if you were shooting a 2.35 feature that might be a very good idea because it gets you more usable pixels. They also had a beautiful set of non-anamorphic PL mount primes - mostly Leica glass, plus Canons for the extreme zooms. They feel that the Leica glass is superior to Zeiss and Cooke for 4k acquisition. Again, no reason you can't rent those for your Red.
What else? Lots of Vipers running around - they are small and cute. Wish I'd had time to play with them. The amazing TechnoDolly thing was there again (like a motion controlled Technocrane). Lots of people with Modula HD mini-cameras. Didn't see Silicon Imaging. Red Rock was there with a prototype matte-box ($500, will have swing-away now and 3 rotating filter stages, designed to work with the Red). They also had a HV20 rig similar to what I am building. Many cool follow focus devices running from the Preston to the Bartech, but I didn't see the Red Rock one there (no time!).
I Saw a 18K HMI - it was successfully illuminating the underside of a tree 20 feet away in broad daylight. I played with the always-impressive weatherproof and dual-voltage Kobold HMIs and the O'Connor 1030HD. Looked around at the other LCD monitors - still nothing that competes with mine, yaay. I stopped by Schneider and talked to them about their DigiCon - you know, the latitude improving filter. The thing seems cheap for what you get. I'm going to have to rent some different grades and test.
Also checked out a crazy rotating iris gizmo that gives a supposedly "3D" effect (www.inv3.com) - believe it or not, it actually worked, although it was weird as shit. Basically, the rotating iris thing gives a still shot a tiny bit of parallax motion by, uh, going round and round. It's kinda like the stupidest thing you've ever seen and the cleverest thing you've ever seen at the same time. I'm not sure if I'll be using it on my next shoot, but it did get me thinking a lot about how humans perceive depth - those little movements of the head that we do are important - and also why the gradual dolly shoot has the psychological effect of sucking you into the picture. The human visual system is a fascinating thing...
Otherwise, played with the Petroff follow focus and matte box, the Vocas matte box (very nice, very light and very pro), Innovision's little "bird's eye" camera support tower (not much to rent - was something like $250 per day?), lots of LED lighting systems, the usual impressive Steadicam rigs. P+S technik were doing a demonstration of their Skater-Dolly hooked up to a simple motion control system - it seemed cheap but effective. But I didn't notice their 35mm adapters being talked about much. Abelcine did have the competing Movietube ST. But my tests with the SGpro have really satisfied me - I really don't think you can get much higher quality without going up to a Red or something like that. Otherwise, I saw and photographed a S.two but didn't have time to check it out properly. I had bought a whole bunch of Zacuto stuff on their 25%-off show special for my HV20 rig (yep, I'm going with that whole shoulder-mounted 35mm adapter thing) and was weighed down at that point...
ADDENDUM: he sent this in later:
Finally, the Wafian people were demonstrating the Cineform beta codec on a Mac laptop. So they are trying to get it working with the Mac world. I don't think it was playing full framerate at full res yet (something to do with the codec not being multi-core aware yet).
Mike's Comments - first off, BIG UPS to longtime reader/contributor Bruce Allen for taking the time to write all this up and submit annotated pictures - I welcome and invite well credentialled/qualified/informed submissions from readers.
Dalsa's new smaller form factor camera (as further detailed in the for-pay NAB Premium report) improves their package size and shootability, and if you can team that up with the new much smaller Codex recorder that can do 4K, that's a substantially new package.
The Wafian stuff looks very interesting for an HD-SDI based, Windows keyed green screen shoot (and other usages). I still have a bunch of Phantom HD footage to process sitting around on a hard drive somewhere, it is a very attractive prospect for high speed, high resolution digital cinematography (not to pimp it too much, but the NAB 2007 Premium report includes further info and a long interview with Mitch Gross about the camera's improvements).
Viper with a Wafian (for tethered) or Codex recorder is a very interesting new option as well.
This is definitely an exciting time to watch the progress in digital cameras and recording options. Of course, how reliable and cost effective all this new gear is in the field is a whole other level of analysis to be done.
UPDATE WEDNESDAY - Then there is this quote on Reduser.net from someone else visiting Dalsa's NAB booth:
I asked the Dalsa rep if they purchased any Reds for the rental department, and he says 'No. We're waiting until they produce a final camera so we can do a comprehensive evaluation. But we're not at any rental disadvantage, because we've already got several reservation holders who've agreed to 'consign' their cameras for rentals as soon it ships.'
So it sounds like they've been keeping their options open (or were at NAB), and have been (or were) considering renting Reds definitely, but may not have publicly committed to doing so. Bruce left CineGear with the impression from the booth reps that they were definitely going to rent them. So MAYBE the rental reps and the PR folks aren't on the same page.
Friday, June 22, 2007
I've at least broken it down into categories - post software, post hardware, acquisition, cameras, general...and iPhone, since there's so much going on with that.
IRIDAS Extends DualStream Stereoscopic Technology across Product Line | Studio Daily - very niche, but good to know
Click-thru Tutorial: Magic Bullet Looks | Studio Daily
Click-thru Tutorial: GenArts Sapphire | Studio Daily
Interview with Automatic Duck's Wes Plate
Getting Intimate with CineForm Intermediate Part 2 (I trust you can follow the links to part 1)
Creating Node Trees in Color and the special case of interlaced video (Final Cut Studio 2) -good Ken Stone tutorial, thanks to a sharp eyed reader for sending this in.
MacNN | MacBook Pro 17" Hi-res: Best LCD yet
MacNN | Overnight 200GB, 250GB laptop drive upgrades - if you don't want to do it yourself...but what about data backup and data integrity and security?
Matrox MXO 2.0 review
Codex Digital Announces Portable Field Recorder | Studio Daily
9 pounds, carbon fiber, rubber weather seals, HD to 4K, size of a lunch box, powered by standard batteries, can do dual link 4:4:4, has Infiniband, Ethernet data connections, can do 10 gigabit optical I/O, 8 channels of audio, wireless MP4 video output, Red One RAW output (!!!), this sounds incredibly cool, useful, and improved - I should write more on this later...
short version - 4K capable S.two to be shown at CineGear
S.two Corporation’s DFR4K™ Digital Field Recorder announced at NAB 2007 will premier at Cine Gear Expo 2007.
New 4K capable portable recorder will feature in movie making workflow demonstration with the Dalsa Origin 4K camera.
Reno, NV—June 22nd 2007— S.two announces it will demonstrate for the first time its new 4K recording solution at this week’s Cine Gear Expo. The new DFR4K™ features full integration with Dalsa Origin 4K cameras using InfiniBand Fibre connections. The coupled systems will be shown on the S.two stand #T4 at the Wadsworth Theatre and Grounds June 22-23, 2007.
The DFR4K plays Dalsa 4K images in real time up to the maximum supported frame rate of the Dalsa camera. This closely coupled integration with Dalsa Origin cameras adds all the capabilities of the camera plus all the on set convenience, productivity, efficiency and robustness that S.two has shown on many completed feature films, the most noted of late being David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’.
An Industry “first”, the 24V DC powered DFR4K™ production units allow the camera to be free of location logistics so that true ‘run and gun’ style movie making can be done in 4K resolution.
This debut showing of the DFR4K™ prototype heralds a complete set of DFR4K™ products for all extended resolution cameras and projects allowing a full choice of palettes for the discerning filmmaker. S.two extended definition workflow will be fully adapted for 4K movie making including offline, archiving and post integration. The DFR4K™ extended definition workflow is added to S.two’s HD, HD RGB, 2K and 3K products supporting other leading cameras.
“As the leading uncompressed digital film recording company, S.two is pleased to be able to provide our field portable, field proven, compact DC powered recording solutions to higher resolution users, bringing our un-rivaled on set experience and reliability to an emerging 4K market” states Steve Roach, Vice President, S.two. “The DFR4K™ provides 4K users a proven end to end workflow with the same benefits S.two has supplied on multiple movie projects around the world.”
Ikegami and Toshiba Provide Details of Advanced New Tapeless ENG Camera, Editing and Production System | Studio Daily
DALSA and the Digital Cinema Society (http://www.digitalcinemasociety.com/) are co-hosting a 4K presentation at the Cine Gear Expo, the industry's premiere film, video and digital media expo. The event which takes place on Saturday, June 23rd will explore 4K for production, post, and projection. Various samples acquired in 4K RAW with the DALSA Origin camera, edited in HD with Apple's Final Cut Pro, then conformed using EDL into the final project for color correction and creation of the DCP will be projected in 4K via the Sony SXRD Projector.
Following the screening, James Mathers, President and Co-founder of the Digital Cinema Society, will moderate a panel made up of Cinematographer David Stump, ASC; DALSA's Rob Hummel; Sony's Andrew Stucker; Denis Leconte of Pacific Title, as well as Directors Anurag Mehta and Joe DiGennaro. The presentation is a great opportunity to find out the benefits and challenges of Digital Filmmaking at 4K resolution.
The time slot is 10-10:45 AM on Saturday, the 23rd at the Wadsworth Theatre at Cinegear. Note: You must be registered for the Cine Gear Expo - Free of Charge Until June 15: For more information on Cinegear, visit http://www.cinegearexpo.com
Zacuto to offer turnkey HD camera packages with Redrock M2 adaptors
Zacuto and Redrock Micro today announced Zacuto will begin offering turnkey digital camera solutions equipped with the Redrock M2 adapter.
"We've had great success providing camera packages setup for the Redrock M2 and have gotten to know it very well," said Steve Weiss, Marketing Director at Zacuto. "Offering our customers complete packages including Redrock's M2 made perfect sense to us. We are thrilled to be teaming up with another US manufacturer."
"Zacuto is putting together fantastic camera packages for digital cinematographers," added James Hurd, Chief Revolutionary for Redrock. "We're delighted to be working with a company that maintains a strong reputation for quality, expertise, and customer service."
Zacuto targets their cinema bundles to customers requiring a complete camera package and have a budget ranging from $20,000-$30,000. The Zacuto cinema solution bundles will include a Zacuto-branded Redrock adapter kit, Panasonic HVX-200 camera, Zeiss Nikon-mount lenses, tripod, Zacuto support system, fitted Zacuto case, and other needed accessories.
Redrock's M2 35mm lens adapter is always available directly from Redrock's website, available with other Redrock accessories including the award-winning microFollowFocus, microMattebox, and microRemote. Redrock pricing starts at $995 for complete SD solutions, and $1,295 for HD solutions.
Redrock and Zacuto will both be at Cinegear Expo 2007 in Los Angeles June 22nd and 23rd. Redrock will be in Booth 30 (located near Panasonic and JVC booths). Zacuto will be located at Booth 77.
Proposed Amendment Would Ban All DVD Copying - News and Analysis by PC Magazine
Cinematical Seven: Tips for the Indie Filmmaker - Cinematical
Shooting Animation Verit-Style for Surf's Up | Studio Daily
HD DVD Production - white paper details on HD DVD structure/setup
Apple`s Safari for Windows offers simple interface, good performance but not essential
MacNN | Apple patent: power adapters for security
Mac OS X 10.4.10 Released
YouTube to Test Software To Ease Licensing Fights - WSJ.com
CinemaTech: Could new RealPlayer spark legal action?
SoftRAID 3.6 doesn't work under 10.4.10 - so don't upgrade yet!:
"SoftRaid 3.6 does not recognize 10.4.10, and will not allow access to preferences for changes or statistics. The only option is to close the software. To paraphrase the error message, it says that I don't have the proper OS installed and that I should install 10.4.X.
I sent an inquiry to SoftRaid, LLC about this and I received an answer back in under 5 minutes as follows:
'Either go back to 10.4.9, wait until 3.6.2 is out, or ask to be on the beta list for 3.6.2. This is caused by Apples hack to make a 10.4.10 possible, which violates their naming standards.'"
iPhone data plans to surface before launch day - Engadget
AppleInsider | New iMac, iPhone hints turn up in Apple software update
AppleInsider | AT&T exec: iPhone data plans to be announced June 29th [Updated]
AppleInsider | Apple retail stores to close, re-open ahead of iPhone
AppleInsider | AT&T recommending "Crowd Control Devices" for iPhone launch
AppleInsider | Apple gets new EU extension; iPhone dock; 7.6 percent Mac share
Apple - iPhone - A Guided Tour - new on Apple's site.
EDIT 9:45PM - I'm watching this right now on my HDTV via my AppleTV (the file is Apple TV compatible, natch). My garage got burgled today - my trusty mountain bike (Bridgestone MB-1, heavily modified over last 16 years) got stolen, and my car pilfered. Drat it - so much for my comfy neighborhood vibe - alarm to be used EVERY time I leave the house from now on. But anyway, feel better sitting home tonight and locking all the windows, etc. Back on topic - the iPhone has more little features I hadn't noticed before, so that's good. A silent ringer dedicated button. Speaker and microphone both on bottom (odd!). Another speaker up by your ear. Sleep/wake button is nice - can still receive calls and listen to music, but the big screen is off to save battery. The speaker on the bottom is for speakerphone mode - nice! Conference calling is nice and easy - I could never figure it out on any other phone system before without going to the manual. Lots of subtle quality UI touches. The cost is starting to not matter as much seeing all this - this is how it ought to work. If they released a phone with no video, no audio, and just the UI in a smaller form factor..it'd sell just fine. can surf multiple simultaneous pages - keep'em open. Email on iPhone can read/view JPEG, PDF, Word, Excel, RTF, HTML, etc. The keyboard is "smart" they say as it catches typos, etc. They suggest starting with your index finger and then advancing to thumbing - "in about a week you'll be typing faster on the iPhone than on any other phone" - so get ready for a learning curve. Still only being demo'd in vertical keyboard only mode - I've always been wondering when they'd get a wide mode keyboard mode - I have fat thumbs (and all that...oh never mind). Stock widget is exactly like the OS X widget. Google Maps - it doesn't seem to be self-aware of where you are as some has hoped - you have to tell it where you are. Traffic updates can be live - nice! YouTube - yeah, gotta be on WiFi from what they seem to be saying. Has an airplane mode - no WiFi, Bluetooth, or cell signals come out of it in this mode (well thought out!). Set your ringtone - they don't mention loading your own, but part of me wants to use this one (NSFW).
That'll hold us for a bit...
Thursday, April 12, 2007
click pic for larger view of camera
DALSA has been busy - taking feedback that the current camera was too large and unwieldy, they've re-engineered one camera and are working on a smaller one as well, and have new recording and lensing options:
First up, an improved version of the Origin, the Origin II:
-modified/improved version of the original Origin
-latest version of their sensor (frame transfer CCD)
-easier touch screen interface
-24 reference white balance curves/display LUTs
-better on set visualization tools
-available for rent NOW
-dual link HD-SDI for monitoring or recording
-battery powerable for untethered operation - record to Flashmag for fully run (OK, careful walk) 'n gun operation with no cables snaking out behind you. Also opens the door for easier Steadicam work (but need a BEEFY platform for that!)
The Big News, to my mind, is the the new DALSA Evolution 4K Camera due in 2008:
-30-40% smaller than the Origin II
-roughly 25 pounds in current prototype trim
-can be completely untethered and battery powered as well with the Flashmag (read about below)
-from Patrick Myles at DALSA answer my question about differnces from the first Origin: same form factor, but latest version of our sensor. (digitalized at full 14bits), plus some new enhancements. Battle tested, production-proven, ready to roll (check out David Stump's 4K footage from "The Trident" with David Carridine this Sunday at the Digital Cinema Summit. Stunning.).
Anybody attending the DCS, please take notes or email me about it as I have other commitments this year unfortunately.
Also, they are addressing the storage option issue - the excellent but large Codex box has been their primary recommended storage solution, and while it elegantly handles a bunch of production issues, it is large, physically cumbersome, power hungry and pricey. Most of those issues have been addressed, and well, with the new Flashmag recording option.
Here's an exclusive photo, click for a larger view:
-untethered recording for uncompressed 4K RAW
-is high speed, non-volatile solid state memory
-20 minutes 16 bit uncompressed 24p 4K RAW, or
-40 minutes of mathematically lossless 4K RAW (mathematically lossless is ABSOLUTELY the same quality as uncompressed, just lossless compression - think .zip or Stuffit instead of JPEG type compression)
-Flashmag also plays back for on set review in realtime, showing "Super 2K" res via dual link HD-SDI
-early 2008 availability
-battery powerable as well for untethered operation on either the Origin II or Evolution
EXCLUSIVE DETAILS: I emailed Patrick and he got back to me with some further details in answer to my questions:
Q: How big is it in GB?
A: 512 GB
Q: 4.) What are the ports/is the workflow to get data off the mag?
A: 4X infiniband for high speed transfer of data at full res.
Dual HD-SDI for realtime display at "Super 2K" (does realtime image reconstruction - RAW to RBG - in the Flashmag) for dailies or even recording.
HDMI, USB, Firewire outputs
...so presumably plug it in and copy over...what exactly? I've asked, will update when I hear back.
And lastly, they'll be offering high performance PL mount 4K anamorphic cine lenses, designed by Eric Peterson of A&S Precision. It gives full coverage of the sensor and will be available late 2007.
Mike's Commentary: Based on seeing vendor presented, optimal presentation of material from the PRESENTLY SHIPPING cameras that I saw last year including the D-20, Panavision Genesis, DALSA, F900, F950, etc., the DALSA Origin is my favorite in terms of image quality - just a gut reaction, "I likes it." INCREDIBLY robust dynamic range capability, excellent resolution, mechanical shutter for film like motion rendition, etc. It looks GREAT. See for yourself here in their 4K gallery.
The single shot that most convinced me was a hot overhead spotlit shot of Dita Von Tease (Marilyn Manson's current wife) wearing a dark gown with pale skin, and the iris was rolled open and closed to over/under expose. The graceful, filmlike was it responded was a crushingly powerful indicator of the finesse with which the sensor handles highlight details - beautifully. Did I say "crushing" in that sentence? I didn't mean to use it in the traditional filmmaker sense, since the whole point was that the highlights DIDN'T crush, just rolled off extremely gracefully without the usual digital telltale giveaways. A hot/overlit skintone is one of the most glaringly (literally) obvious indicators of digital vs film - and this handled it very well.
That said, it is also a big clumsy beast of a camera in the Origin (I) incarnation I saw last summer, as it had no HD-SDI outputs, and ONLY recorded uncompressed 4K. The victory of the product is that they set out to create a no-compromises optimal 4K image acquisition device, and they achieved that. The problem was, some compromises would have been extremely helpful - HD-SDI out, more readily shoulder mountable form factor, and options other than the massive Codex recorder box for image capture would have been good...but would have compromised their max quality vision of how to do this stuff. Their "4K or the Highway" approach at the time was a hindrance for viable production work. Now, they've addressed those issues.
The Origin II adds the interfaces I felt were missing, the Evolution tackles the form factor issues, and the Flashmag addresses the portability/tethering issues. MAJOR progress. It is also nice to hear David Stump shot some footage with it for The Trident, but I don't know enough about that project to say anything else, hopefully it is a feature or TV project, as I haven't heard of anyone committing to DALSA for a feature project or significant VFX work - I suspect their "4K or the Highway" approach had scared folks off.
EDIT - got an email from DALSA, saying folks are taking a "Super 2K" approach - shoot 4K RAW & downsample to 2K 16 bit RGB. In addition to The Trident, David Stump also shot a project called "No!". Additionally, Super 2K approach is being used at present.
The Flashmag is more than just a recorder, it will also play back and handle demosaic & scaling of the 4K RAW footage to dual link HD-SDI - a huge benefit. For lower cost monitoring, an HDMI output makes for easy client monitoring solutions as well. The Infiniband, FireWire and USB 2.0 interfaces are all presumably usable for getting the data off the unit with varying degrees of speed and convenience on set.
Come check out all their new goodies at NAB, in Central Hall, booth 9423. I'm meeting with them, you should too. The image quality is fantastic, form factor and workflow were their challenges and they appear to be making significant progress on that front.
Their next challenge - bringing these new products to market at a sufficiently attractive price point in a timely manner....
PS - on a related note, Origin and CineForm have been working together on being able to use the CineForm RAW codec with DALSA's camera. The last I heard was that there wasn't enough horsepower to convert the uncompressed RAW to CineForm RAW in realtime, so recording to uncompressed was required, and then the massive datastream could be compressed using the Cineform RAW codec for more efficient storage, transport, and workflow. I missed blogging on this issue, as I do with many, because I wanted to cover it in depth but just never got the time, so it slipped through my fingers (as so many things do).
Random thought - I wonder what the time and efficacy would be like to shoot untethered to the Flashmag, then transcode straight from the Flashmag to Cineform RAW via a laptop on set with an external drive to record the footage...hmmm...and what would the image quality be like compared to the uncompressed. Hmm...think think think....
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Cineform announced a new codec - 12 bit "CineForm 444" codec - 12 bits/channel, 4:4:4 RGB. Note that this is different from their Cineform RAW codec that they've been using with the SI-2K.
So, this new codec details:
-targetted at high end of digital cinema & broadcast acquisition
-pitching as a competitor to HDCAM SR
-tested HDCAM SR vs CineForm 444, CineForm bested SR by 3 to 5 dB in peak s/n ratio testing
-used StEM (Standard Evaluation Material, is scanned film)
-see results here
-same results discussed on David Newman's blog here
More on the codec from their press release:
-12 bit RGB
-member of the CineForm Intermediate codec family, called CineForm 444
-up to 2048x2048 pixel resolution (why not 4Kx4K? -Mike)
-Prospect 2K for Premiere Pro supports real-time, multi-stream editing (oh, that's why! -mike)
-a version of CineForm 444 for Intel Mac QT "will be released in the near future"
-"Intended for professional film, digital cinema, and broadcast applications"
-it now offers realtime direct-to-disk capability over dual link HD-SDI onto Windows now and OS X "soon"
-alternative to tape based recording, much lower price point
-setup allow for picking AVI or QT wrappers
-recorded files IMMEDIATELY editable with no conversion or transcoding required IF using Premiere Pro on Windows (currently). Can also open directly in After Effects on Windows for compositing using native, recorded files
-Final Cut support coming
-tested using a Wafian prototype recorder (hardware computer solution using CineForm recording) recording off a Viper, compared to HDCAM SR deck, as well as StEM footage
-comparing peak signal to noise ratio (PSNR), the CineForm solution bested HDCAM SR by 3 to 5 dB
This all sounds very good - the Wafian recorder is simply a customized Windows portable system that has the horsepower and storage to record the CineForm codec format, but you could lug a suitably hoss system onto a stage/set for DIY recording for greenscreen etc. shoots. The Wafian makes it easier and productized, but the CineForm codec is the magic inside.
The point being they now have a very high quality recording option to meet or exceed the bit depth of the high end production being down these days over dual link HD-SDI. The F950, D-20, Genesis, & F23 will all kick out a maximum bit depth of 10 bits/channel over dual link HD-SDI.
I know just enough math to know that PSNR is important but not the only factor that matters when evaluating compression techniques. As someone on CML pointed out, 20 seconds or more of rolling footage viewed in a critical viewing environment is one way to evaluate material, and running compressed footage all the way through post processes to make sure nothing non-visible to human eyes but software visible (think keys and aggressive color correction).
The Davids were kind enough to point out all this material to me in recent weeks, but I've been too busy to sit down and thoroughly evaluate the material in the rigorous methods needed to give a comprehensive and definitive analysis.
But this all sounds very good and promising and it is great to have new options.
The ability to have a 2K master that edits in realtime with a reasonable datarate for high quality work. Wait, what datarates? I emailed David Taylor and he was kind enough to respond quickly:
But as a quick summary, using the StEM material (which is a bit more complex than most material, the average bitrates were:
CineForm 444 Filmscan 1: 350 Mbps (=43.8 MB/sec -mike)
CineForm 444 Filmscan 1-Keying: 410 Mbps (=51.3 MB/sec -mike)
CineForm 444 Filmscan 2: 415 Mbps (=51.8 MB/sec -mike)
CineForm 444 Filmscan 2-Keying: 480 Mbps (=60 MB/sec -mike)
Source in all test cases was 1920 x 1080 24p 10-bit dual-link HD-SDI.
Those datarates are stretching beyond the bounds of what is reliably doable on a single SATA drive. Modern single SATA drives run from about 30-55 MB/sec (full to empty rates) for slower drives to 40-65 MB/sec for faster drives. So really, you need a RAID to run these - if you're using 44 MB/sec footage on a drive that falls below 40 MB/sec when full, you aren't going to get reliable, no frames dropped performance. So a RAID of some sort is a practical necessity, esp. if you want a realtime transition (where two streams must be sustained).
But even a small native SATA RAID 0 could suffice, and they are quite affordable (starting under $1000).
That said, some issues:
1.) At present, the only native editing solution is Premiere Pro on Windows. That's at least 3rd on the list of NLEs high end professionals (target for this product, remember) want to work on. Avid is serious editors #1 pick, Final Cut tends to follow, and then it devolves to "everyone else" of which Premiere Pro tends to be at the front of that line. Final Cut support is coming but not quite here yet (it is in beta). When it does get here, will he have realtime support for things like cross dissolves and color correction? That is a mission critical feature as far as I'm concerned.
So no Avid native support at all at present or on the foreseeable horizon (and they historically Don't Play Well With Others unless others are camera companies). But then again, you can always downrez (software easy but slow, hardware realtime but cumbersome esp. for timecode issues) for an offline edit and conform on PPro/AE. Then, if needed, kick out to uncompressed for online if you want to do so on a different system (DPX sequences, SR tape, whatevah).
2.) As the last bit of the above alludes, data migration. Right now you can get that footage into some desktop type apps on Windows, soon on Macs, but lets face it - most shoots working with HDCAM SR are likely to also be using heavy iron production equipment that is often Linux/Unix based, and expects a DPX sequence. While you CAN convert to that format, you're losing the storage, time, and One Master File convenience offered by CineForm. You could acquire and archive with CineForm, then convert to offline editorial codec and uncompressed full res for VFX - your "digital negative" would remain conveniently small.
3.) I have yet to do my own testing to verify how well this compressed format holds up to heavy post - aggressive color correction and green screen keying the two items of greatest concern.
OK, gotta go run...
Got an email from David of CineForm and that got me thinking:
1.) You CAN just treat this like a deck, with data copied off as your "tape". Wafian HR-2 (designation of new model) DOES have dual link HD-SDI, so you could shoot on set, bring it back to studio/editorial, ingest over HD-SDI any way you want (DVCPRO HD for offline edit, downconvert to SD for edit, whatever), and have SOME kind of sync system to go back for the high res masters.
2.) OR you could batch process the Wafian files down to whatever you want for offline/online/VFX pipelines as needed using After Effects or possibly other tools. After Effects isn't built for batch conversion, but you can do it.
3.) High quality file based compressed wavelet source captured to hard drive that lets you convert to offline/online formats of choice - that's pretty much what Red is doing, but they're building their own conversion utility as well, with the added benefit that there is a shipping solution to edit it now with realtime effects (on a duly pimped system).
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The big deal for Cineform was Mac's migration to the Intel platform, so that the software port was easier and they wouldn't have to ditch a ton of code optimization for the Intel platform.
So now they have a QuickTime codec for Macs, albeit only for Intel Macs. It works with Final Cut Pro, and will eventually work with Adobe's Premiere Pro when it comes back to Mac later this year (also Intel only).
Cineform Intermediate is a 10 bit, full raster (full 1920 wide, not like DVCPRO HD's 1280 or HDV's 1440 pixels wide for a 1080i or 1080p signal), and uses wavelet based encoding - much more efficient than the DCT used in DV, JPEG, DVCPRO HD, HDV, etc.
The codec is cross platform (write on PC read on Mac and vice versa), but Intel Mac only, and requires Tiger (OS X 10.4.x). It can read and write files up to 2K (2048x2048) and is 4:2:2 color sampling.
Over time, they plan on adding Cineform RAW (for RAW workflows like SI-2K and Red One), HD-SDI and HDMI interface support, etc. So I take it that with this build, it won't be possible to capture and transcode on the fly with an AJA or BMD card.
This public beta is unrestricted and will work for a couple of months (into May) or more as they work at the bugs and add features to it.
More info at Cineform.com.
This is good news - the existing crop of codec choices is rather limiting. This is a great first step, but only a first step. To really work in a production environment in FCP, they'll need support and help from Blackmagic and AJA so that you can capture directly to this format (otherwise a lengthy transcode is required after acquiring uncompressed, for instance), as well as playout support so that it'll show up through an AJA or BMD card on your video monitor (as oppposed to computer monitor). Ultimately it would be great if Apple would support it in their RT (realtime) architecture, but I could see barriers to that, starting with Apple's "not invented here" penchant when it comes to third party codecs. Cineform knows this and is actively pursuing those relationships to make all this happen.
I haven't downloaded/installed it yet, but I would expect that it would install and work in Final Cut Pro, and hopefully play in realtime on a decently fast machine. I'd expect a still (park on the timeline) to possibly play out through an AJA or BMD card, but I wouldn't expect full speed video to play out, and you definitely won't get real time anything other than playback - no dissolves, color correction, etc. - it'll all have to render. But that is all supposition, I haven't tested it yet myself.
Adobe, however, plays nice with these guys, and they already have deep tie-ins to the code for Premiere Pro, so that is where I expect this codec to blossom on the Mac platform.
Plus, it'll be a good choice for a compressed working or intermediate codec for those lacking the array speed and capacity to handle high res uncompressed source.