News from NAB – What on earth is XDCAM AIR?

Well I didn’t know what “XDCAM Air” was so I had to ask. In a nutshell XDCAM Air is the name Sony are giving to the wireless and network functions of there more recent and forthcoming camcorders and it’s a cloud service especially for XDCAM.

So XDCAM Air covers things like proxy streaming from a camcorder, ftp uploading and the Sony QoS (quality of service) system that allows you to get great streaming image quality over less than ideal network conditions. Plus remote control of a camera or cameras over a wireless network.

But not only is XDCAM Air about existing capabilities, it is also about future possibilities with the introduction of remote NLE editing of content stored on a camera connected via the internet to the NLE. Other future possibilities are things like firmware updates and some engineering tasks over the Internet. As an example if your camera is playing up and engineer could be given remote access to the camera to look at any error codes or error logs stored in the camera. While the engineer might not be able to fix a hardware issue remotely it may mean that firmware bugs can be identified sooner or patches applied remotely. Perhaps one day I will be able to upload picture profiles or scene files directly to camera son the other side of the world.

News from NAB – Sony PXW-Z450. 4K, 2/3″ shoulder cam, X400 to get 4K option.

The new Sony PXW-Z450  UHD ENG shoulder camcorder.
The new Sony PXW-Z450 UHD ENG shoulder camcorder.

So this is interesting. Sony have launched a new shoulder camera at NAB, the PXW-Z450. On the outside it looks much like any other ENG style shoulder camera, it’s almost a clone of the recently launched PXW-X400.

On the inside though this is a UHD, single chip (I believe), 2/3″ CMOS camera. It records to SxS cards (or XQD via an adapter) using the XAVC codec in UHD and HD at up to 60fps as well as MPEG2 HD422 (XDCAM HD422) up to 30fps.

The PXW-Z450, looks just like any other ENG shoulder camera.
The PXW-Z450, looks just like any other ENG shoulder camera.

As the sensor is a 2/3″ sensor (Exmor R, back illuminated)  it takes regular B4 2/3″ ENG lenses, but being a 4K sensor you are going to need a really, really good lens. You don’t want to be using some old SD lens on this camera.

It will have full wireless capability including streaming over WiFi or via a 4G dongle of XAVC proxy  files and even has an “Online” button for live feeds. There’s a slot for a drop in radio mic receiver and 4 control dials for the 4 audio channels.

There’s an SDI input for recording from external sources, so great for news pool applications where you may need to record footage from other cameras or sources.

It will be supplied as a body only and can be used with the HDVF-EL20 or HDVF-EL30 Oled viewfinders.

DSC00656It won’t be available until the end of the year (which is possibly why there isn’t too much PR for this particular launch) and the camera at the show is a very early pre-production unit, so difficult to asses what the final image quality will be like at this stage. However the camera includes S-Log3 and Hybrid Log Gamma for HDR productions, so clearly the engineers are expecting the dynamic range to be very good.

In addition next year (2017) there will be an upgrade kit to convert the PXW-X400 to UHD. I’m assuming this kit will include a new optical block to swap out the sensor as well as new firmware for the X400 to enable UHD recording.

News from NAB – PXW-FS5 Auto ND and Raw.

The New Sony PXW-FS5
The New Sony PXW-FS5

Sony’s little PXW-FS5 is slowly maturing. The next firmware version  will add support for automatic operation of the cameras variable ND filter. The Auto ND function can be used in conjunction with Auto Iris to get an incredible automatic exposure compensation range. Great for day to night timelapse etc. The Auto ND function has to be assigned to one of the cameras assignable buttons before it can be used, but it’s a great feature to have.

In addition Zebras will go down all the way to zero. So you will be able to set zebras to 50-55% for log skin tones or 41% for S-log3 grey card exposure etc.

GPS will work too!

All of the above will be free. For an extra $600 you will be able to get the raw output option. This will allow the camera to record to an external raw recorder in full DCI 4K (4096×2160) at up to 60fps. Yes, that’s right 60fps! In addition there will be a 4 second HFR burst capability that will allow you to record 4 seconds of 120fps 4K raw. If all that isn’t enough then in 2K you will have high speed recording at up to 240fps. However there won’t be any non high speed 2K modes, so no regular 30fps 2K raw.

Just like the FS700 and FS7 the raw is 12 bit linear, so not as good as an F5 or F55, but still a very nice option to have. All of this should be coming some time in June. Don’t forget for raw you will need an external raw recorder such as the Convergent Design Odyssey or the Atomos Shogun.

 

News From NAB 2016 – Firmware Update for 18-105mm Lens.

Sony have released a firmware update for the 18-105mm lens that is available as a package with the FS5. The update addresses some of the focus tracking issues that some lenses appear to have. To update the lens firmware you need to go to the support page of Sony consumer:  http://www.sony.co.uk/support/en/product/SELP18105G

and download the update package. You will need to have the lens mounted on a camera and the camera connected to a Mac or PC. Full install instructions are provided after you click on the Mac or PC download link buttons.

PXW-FS5 Firmware V1.11 released (fixes edge tearing)

The promised firmware to fix the image tearing and macro blocking issues that some people are seeing from the PXW-FS5 has been released and can be downloaded from here:

http://www.sony.co.uk/pro/support/software/SW_122115_PSG/10

This firmware addresses the edge tearing at high gain levels caused by the temporal noise reduction and also includes some small tweaks to the XAVC encoder to minimise macro blocking.

New AXS-R7 raw recorder for the PMW-F55 and F5.

AXS-R7 dual slot raw recorder.
AXS-R7 dual slot raw recorder.

After a brief teaser campaign Sony have now released details of a new raw recorder for the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 cameras.

The AXS-R7 is a new more rugged dual slot recorder that works with A series AXS cards (that’s the newer smaller size, not the original large size cards). Being dual slot it should allow for relay recording.

New A series AXS cards.
New A series AXS cards.

The new recorder has a lot more processing power than the original to support new functions such as cache recording up to 30 seconds and has a more rugged housing with dust and moisture filters. One of the new features coming with this recorder is the ability to record at up to 120 fps in 4K raw. For this new faster AXS cards will be needed and these will be released at the same time as the recorder this summer.

To support the new recorder the F5/F55 cameras will get new firmware. Version 8 will also introduce the ability to record XAVC class 480 which in 4K is 480Mb/s at 24/25/30p and 960Mb/s at 50 and 60p.

So all in all a series of significant upgrades for these cameras that continue to just get better and better.

AXS-R7 docked with PMW-F55
AXS-R7 docked with PMW-F55

Here’s the full Sony press release:

Basingstoke – February 25th, 2016: Sony’s next generation of CineAlta products provides enhanced features for production professionals now shooting in 4K RAW with large sensor cameras; handling large files can be done easily while maintaining the highest levels of image quality.

The new products include an upcoming RAW recorder, the AXS-R7 for the F55/F5 and higher-speed AXS memory cards. These are complemented by the newest firmware (Version 8) for the F55 and F5, continuing Sony’s development and support of the CineAlta platform by adding new features and capabilities directly based on user feedback.

“These new technologies answer the question of ‘why shoot in 4K 16-bit RAW’? And, demonstrate Sony’s commitment to the F5 and F55’” said Ainara Porron, Marketing Manager, Cinematography, Sony Professional Solutions Europe. “Working in 4K RAW and High Dynamic Range (HDR) opens up new creative possibilities for production professionals who are not prepared to compromise on image quality.”

New RAW Recorder

Compared to previous Sony 4K recorders, the new recorder doubles 4K RAW recording from 60 FPS up to 120 FPS from the F55 camera. For shooting at higher frame rates, the recorder captures 2K RAW at up to 240 FPS from the F55 and F5, for playback with 10x super slow motion.

With the recorder, 4K shooters can take advantage of RAW cache recording at 23.98p for up to approximately 30 seconds while in standby mode, an important feature in documentary or wildlife production where capturing spontaneous action is required.

The new recorder is designed for rugged field performance. A metal filter separates and seals the recorder’s ventilation shaft from the electronics to prevent the entry of dust and water. The recorder’s camera connections are more secure, with a large top bracket that accepts four widely spaced 1/4-inch screws.

AXS Memory

The additions to the CineAlta line also include new high-performance versions of Sony’s AXS memory cards (1TB and 512 GB capacities) with sustained read and write speeds of 4.8 Gbps, and 44 minutes at 59.94p or 22 minutes at 120 FPS. The dual-slot recorder also accepts current A-series of AXS media, but the new cards are designed to support the write speeds required for 4K RAW 120 FPS recording for those who require that level of performance.

PMW-F55/F5 Firmware Version 8

The latest firmware update (Version 8) for the F55 and F5, upgrade license installed, enables support for XAVC 4K Class 480 recording at 23.98p, 24p, 25p and 29.97p. Leading third-party vendors already support XAVC 4K Class 480, for those creative professional requiring a higher data rate version of XAVC.

“These newest additions and updates to our CineAlta platform are all the direct result of user feedback,” Porron added. “It’s no longer about simply delivering a product. It’s about delivering the right products that can grow with a customer and fit within a workflow that is constantly evolving as production requirements change.”

For a full list of features and capabilities, visit pro.sony.eu/cinematography

Planned availability is as below:

[if !supportLists]·       [endif]AXS-R7 New RAW recorder: Summer 2016

[if !supportLists]·       [endif]AXS-A1TS48 Media (1TB): Summer 2016

[if !supportLists]·       [endif]AXS-A512S48 Media (512 GB): Summer 2016

[if !supportLists]·       [endif]Firmware version 8: Summer 2016

More details will be announced at NAB.

XAVC Class 480 – What is it?

Has anyone else noticed that Adobe now include XAVC Class 480 in the codec options for exporting XAVC from Adobe Premiere via Media Encoder?

In case you don’t know what it is, class 480 is the 480Mb/s version of 4K XAVC. This gives a bit rate of…… drum roll……. 480Mb/s at 24/25/30fps. At 50 and 60fps it runs at a whopping 960Mb/s, this is the top limit for XAVC in it’s current form.

Sony’s PMW-F5/F55 and the FS7 currently record XAVC using Class 300 which is up to 300Mb/s at 24/25/30fps or 600Mb/s at 50/60p. So as you can see Class 480 has the potential to improve the compressed image quality from these cameras still further should it ever make it into a camera. Looking at what the cameras can currently do I’m not sure that this is possible with existing SxS or XQD media. 960Mb/s is the same data rate as Sonys 16 bit 24fps raw and it’s not possible to record that to SxS cards.

Coming back to Premier: Some interesting things happen in Premiere if you try to export an XAVC originated project out using Class 480. If the clips in your timeline are not adjusted in any way, in other words; exactly as shot, then if you export and choose Class 480 nothing happens to the footage. Premiere will “smart” export them exactly as they are as Class 300. This means that there will be absolutely no loss of image quality as the clip is not re-compressed. However if the original clip has been adjusted, for example graded, re-sized, a caption added etc then the clip will be encoded at 480Mb/s. From what I can tell where you have a mix of treated and untreated clips in a project Premiere is smart enough to pass through the untreated clips while bumping up any treated clips to 480.

Class 480 is seen as a mastering format by Sony. The extra data and lower compression makes it particularly suited to HDR productions.

Sony’s Optical Disc Archive. My Story Starts Here!

Sony ODS-D77U Optical Disc Archive drive.
Sony ODS-D77U Optical Disc Archive drive.

So a new but extremely important toy has arrived in the shape of a Sony ODS-D77U optical disc archive drive.  Until now I have been using pairs of hard drives to backup my data and video clips. This is not an ideal solution, but it is cheap and easy. I’ve been following the development of ODA (Optical Disc Archive) since it’s inception. As it uses the same optical discs as the XDCAM optical disc cameras I know this to be an extremely secure and robust way to store footage having both dish-washed optical discs and performed other tests on their reliability (click here to see the original dish-washer test and the “challenge Alister” clip).

The drive comes with Sonys Media Browser software utility that allows you to easily select which files to copy to the disc cartridges either manually or through the use of watch folders (anything you place in the watch folders is archived to the ODA drive). As this happens Media Browser builds a compact searchable data base of what is stored on your archive cartridges complete with thumbnails and proxy files. The database resides on your computer so you can search your entire archive quickly whenever you want. When you find the files you want to retrieve it tells you which cartridge they are on, you pop the cartridge in the drive and then the files can be pulled off more or less instantly using Content Manager or your normal file browser. It’s all very simple and very easy, you can even play 4K content directly from the discs.

As the cartridges behave much like hard drives you have near instant access to files and don’t have to wait to de-compress them or shuttle through a load of tape to get to the desired files. And unlike tape you don’t need to be to fussy about how you store the disc packs. They should be largely immune to the effects of damp and temperature. They are designed to last at least 50 years.

There are two types of cartridge: Write once (the cheapest) that can only be written to once (you don’t have to use the entire disc at once) and writable.  A 600GB write once disc cartridge costs approx $75USD so not much more than a high quality hard drive, but certainly a lot, lot safer and more robust. You can currently get cartridges up to 1.5TB write once and 1.2TB rewritable with larger capacities planned for the future.

The next step for me will be to setup a server for Sony’s new Media Navigator software that will help me better manage the many, many hours of media I own and I’ll be writing a diary on how ODA and Media Navigator fits into my workflow as I get the system up and running so watch this space. In addition I have opened a dedicated ODA/Navigator forum in the XDCAM-User forum.

For more information on ODA click here.

Sony Europe are currently running a promotion for ODA that includes a discounted price for the drive unit as well as 24 month 0% finance. Click here for details of this offer.

Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.