Category Archives: cameras

There Is No Such Thing As A “12G” SDI Cable.

The way the coax cables used for SDI works is very different to the way an HDMI cable works. HDMI cables are indeed constructed quite differently between early HDMI 1.0 – 1.4 classes and the more recent 2.0+ classes. So with HDMI you will find that an old, early version HDMI cable won’t work with the latest standards.

SDI cables are nothing fancy.

SDI uses nothing more sophisticated than a single core coax cable that is no different in it’s basic design, construction and mode of operation to an ordinary TV aerial down lead. It is a very simple type of cable and really nothing fancy.

Frequency matters.

The SDI signal is very high frequency; in effect it is a radio signal. From a cabling point of view the ONLY difference between the original SDI standard and the latest standards is the frequency. The way the cable works is no different between the original SDI standard and the latest and a camera or monitor has no way of telling or knowing what type of cable you are using.

Frequency is important because the higher the frequency, the more lossy ANY coax cable will become (leaky kind of describes what’s going on). Low quality cable – more signal leaks out, high quality cable less leaks out so the signal will go further.

But even the very earliest SDI cables were normally made using good quality very low loss coax. These original SDI cables are perfectly capable of carrying the higher frequencies used by 12G SDI. BUT over very long lengths there will be more loss at 12G than at 1.5G.  

It’s not the “G” that counts, it’s the quality.

So really when looking for SDI cables, the question isn’t – “is it 12G” the question should be “what are the cable losses” or more simply “is it a good quality cable”. There are plenty of original SDI cables that can be used at 50m at 12G without issue. At the same time I have also seen cables marketed as “12G” that are nowhere near as well screened, with much higher losses, that barely work at 10m.

Just as important as the cable losses is the construction. Have the connectors been fitted correctly? Are the connectors correctly sized for the cable that’s being used, has the crimping or soldering been done well? Most coax cable failures are due to poor connector assembly or the use of low-quality connectors.

Impedance Matter.

One other thing to watch for is the cable impedance. SDI cables should be made using 75 ohm impedance cable and connectors. Radio cables for radio communications normally use 50 ohm cables and connectors and the two are not really compatible. But often cheaper cables sold for SDI and video applications may be made using 50 ohm parts as often these are cheaper. These cables will fit and more often than not they appear to work. BUT the pins in the BNC plugs are a different size and this can result in intermittent connections and over time can even damage the connectors on cameras and monitors etc. So do make sure your cables really are 75 ohm.

In the real world:

For most shorter cables, up to 5m cable losses are rarely an issue unless the cable is of particularly low quality or badly made. For between 5m and 10m you should avoid the very thin coax cables as the losses become more significant. Above 10m use only low loss cables with good quality screening. A cable sold as a “12G” cable should indicate good quality low loss cable, but it is not a guarantee. And the vast majority of well-constructed normal SDI cables will work just as well unless you want extremely long runs in which case you need ultra-low loss cable.

Sony FX6 Launch

Sony will launch a new small 4K handheld camcorder – the FX6 on Tuesday the 17th of November.

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Sony FX6 4K Camcorder

To find out more about this new and very exciting camcorder you can watch the launch event via Instagram. After the launch event I am hosting a Q and A on Instagram. I’ve been lucky enough to have shot with the camera and have extensively tested it, so tune in to the Q&A to learn more. There is a lot to like and I am certain this camcorder will prove to be extremely popular. The Instagram session will be here: https://www.instagram.com/sonyprofilmmaking/

Then on Wednesday the 18th I will be presenting a webinar on the FX6 for Visual Impact in the UK at 11.00 GMT: https://www.visuals.co.uk/events/events.php?event=eid1748059180-892

 

 

 

Then once the initial launch dust settles I will bring you more information about this exciting new camera including tutorials and guides.

DIY Assignable Button Labels.

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DIY labels for the assignable buttons on my FX9.

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old,  but I do like to have a label to remind me of what I have assigned to the assignable buttons on my cameras. 

There are lot’s of ways you can make a label from a post-it-note to camera tape. But I recently got a new label printer from Dymo and with the right tape it will print white text on clear tape.  The printers are around $40 so they are not too expensive. If you’re anything like me once you get one you will find yourself labelling everything, so a worthwhile investment. 

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Dymo labels for the assignable buttons on my PXW-FX9


For the labels on my FX9 I used the smallest “8” point text size and you will need to trim the labels down with a sharp pair of scissors. They need to be very small to fit in the gaps between the buttons. I found a pair of tweezers really helps to hold the label while you cut it and peel of the backing. Then you can use the tweezers to place your swanky new label exactly where you want it.

I think they look pretty good and are worth the effort. The printer I used is a Dymo Label Manager 160 and the tape is a Office Depot white on clear 12mm plastic tape. There are lots of colour choices if you don’t want clear tape. Looking at the pictures of the camera I now realise I should have taken a bit more time to get the labels straight! Fortunately you can peel them off without leaving any nasty residue or damaging the paint.

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The dymo printer I used to knock up the labels.

Don’t Panic! The A7S III didn’t just make your big pro camera obsolete.

Screenshot-2020-07-31-at-10.07.40 Don't Panic! The A7S III didn't just make your big pro camera obsolete.
Sony’s new A7S III video centric mirrorless camera.

So Sony have just launched the A7S III. And very impressive it is. Amazing low light performance, great dynamic range and lots of nice 10 bit codecs. You can even get a 16 bit raw output if you want. I can’t wait to get one. But I really don’t see the A7S III as a threat to or replacement of my FX9 or any other 4K professional video camera.

All the same discussions took place when the original A7S was launched. Sony F5 owners looked at the A7S and said – heck how can that little camera shoot full frame 4K while my camera can’t even shoot s35 4K. Why can the A7S have AF when my F3/F5 doesn’t. How can a camera that produces such beautiful images only cost 1/5th of what my F5 costs. But here we are 6 years on and the A7S and A7S II didn’t replace any of the bigger cameras and when the FS5 was launched people snapped up the FS5, often to replace an A7.

Why? Ergonomics.
 
I don’t ever want to go back to having to carry and use a big box of different ND filters for different light levels. I find the small LCD screen on the back of a DSLR to be of very limited use and while the A7S III does have a very good EVF it’s placement makes it hard to use it on a tripod or in anything other than a simple hand hold with the camera up against your face.
If you want to shoot log then you really want built in LUTs. There are the battery and power questions. How do you power the camera and accessories without needing two or more power systems or a rig to take a big external battery and a bunch of adapters? Then there’s having buttons and switches for all the frequently accessed functions. I could go on but you only have to look at the many franken-rigs that end up built around DSLR type cameras just to make them usable to see the problems. Almost always the first purchase to go with a DSLR is a cage. Why do you need a cage? Because you know your going to have to bolt a ton of stuff to that once small, portable camera to turn it into a professional video making tool.

 

Sure, I will almost certainly get an A7S III and it will be a great camera to compliment my FX9. And yes, there may even be some projects where I only take the A7S III, just as there have been shoots where I have used just my A7S. But it won’t ever replace my FX9, they are two very different tools, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

 

The image quality gap between traditional large professional video cameras and handheld stills type cameras will continue to get smaller and smaller as electronics continue to be further miniaturised, that is inevitable, but the cameras form factor will still be important.
 
The small cars of today often have all the same bells and whistles as a large luxury car of 10 years ago. Let’s say you’ve gone on vacation (remember those?) and it’s a road trip. You get to the car rental office and you have a choice between a large, spacious, stable, less stressed car or a small car that has to work a bit harder to get you to the same place. Both will get you there, but which do you choose? There might be some instances where the small car is preferrable, perhaps you will be in a lot of narrow city streets a lot. But for most road trips I suspect most people will opt for the big comfy cruiser most of the time.

For me the A7S III will be that nippy little car, a camera that I can pop in a pocket to grab beautiful images where I can’t use a bigger camera. But for my main workhorse I don’t want fiddly, I don’t want a ton of accessories hanging off it just to make it workable. I want the luxury cruiser that will just take it all in it’s stride and get on with the job and right now that’s my FX9.

How To Live Stream With The Sony PXW-Z90 and NX80.

The Sony PXW-Z90 is a real gem of a camcorder. It’s very small yet packs a 1″ sensor , has real built in ND filters, broadcast codecs and produces a great image. On top of all that it can also stream live directly to Facebook and other similar platforms. In this video I show you how to set up the Z90 to stream live to YouTube. Facebook is similar. The NX80 from Sony is very similar and can also live stream in the same way.

 

Rigging the PXW-FX9

In case you missed the live stream I have uploaded the recording I made of my almost hour long video with hints, tips and ideas for rigging the PXW-FX9. In the video I cover things like base plates including VCT and Euro Plate. I look at hand grip options, rod rails and matte boxes as well as power options including V-mount adapters and the XDAC-FX9.  Of course everything in the video is based on my own personal needs and requirements but I think there is some good information in there for anyone looking to accessorize their FX9, whether for working from a tripod or handheld.

 

Time To Buy A New Camera – But What To Do With The Old One?

So, you have decided to take the plunge and invest in a new camera. You’ve been shooting with your old camera for a couple of years or more and it’s served you well. But when you try to trade it in or sell it you find it’s really not worth a great deal. Maybe only a small fraction of what you paid for it. What do you do?

For a start a dealer won’t give you a great deal on an older camera that’s been superseded by a newer model, unless there is some kind of very special trade in deal (even then you may be able to negotiate a better discounted price from the dealer and then sell the old camera separately). I’m assuming you are buying the new one because it’s better than the old one. Dealers don’t want large numbers of older cameras sitting on shelves unless they can afford to carry the risk of them not selling. Some dealers might be willing to try to sell it for you on a commission basis and that might be one way to go. But if you can sell it privately, you’ll typically get a bit more money for it than a trade in.

Whatever you do it’s time to put your business head on, rather than allowing any emotional attachment to a camera (that may well have served you well) to influence your decision making. In a years time it’s likely the old camera will be worth even less.

Ask yourself the following question: Will  keeping the camera earn me more additional profit than the money I will get from selling it, even if it is an uncomfortably low price? If the answer is no, then sell it now while it’s still worth something and don’t hang around, get rid of it while you can.

Don’t just hang on to it because you can’t bear to sell it for such a low price. This isn’t a child or loved one, it’s a tool and there is no point in having a tool that’s not going to be used, or might get used once in the next year, cluttering up your office. I’ve often made the mistake of hanging on to a much loved camera to use as a backup or B camera and never actually used it. Instead it’s sat on a shelf for a couple of years gathering dust until it eventually it gets discarded (it might impact your equipment insurance, it still needs to be insured as an insurance company can sometimes refuse to pay out if something happens and you are found to be under insured).

Remember, to be useful a B camera will also typically needs it’s own tripod, batteries and all the other support kit the main camera needs. So hanging on to a second camera may mean having to also hang on to a lot of other kit as well.

But if you are confident it will make you that extra money then keep it.

Another consideration is what could you do with the the money you can get for it? Would it allow you to invest in some new lenses to go with your new camera? Perhaps a better tripod, new lights, stuff you would use day-in day-out rather than once in a blue moon. It’s much better to have you hard earned cash working for you on a regular basis than hanging on to something  “just in case”. In those once in a blue moon, just in case scenarios there are places called rental houses. And if the project that needs that once in a blue moon second camera isn’t going to pay to hire one, then why are you providing it? You are running a business not a charity aren’t you? A bit dramatic perhaps and there will always be exceptions to the rule. But that is the way you should be thinking.

If the old camera has been good for you, the emotional attachment often leads to hanging on to a piece of kit that really should be moved on to make way for new tools that will help you grow the business. If you do keep it, instead of it hanging out on a shelf, do consider hiring it out. It’s less damaging to your business if a spare or backup camera gets stolen or damaged on a rental than your main camera, so this could be a toe in the water of a sideline rental business. But do explore you insurance restrictions and limitations, plus consider whether you want strangers turning up at your home or place of business to pick up kit at all sorts of hours.

I’m definitely not saying you have to sell your older camera, just try to take any emotional attachment out of the decision and figure out what’s best for the business.

Hot Pixels and White Dots From My New Camcorder (FX9 and many others).

So you have just taken delivery of a brand new PXW-FX9. Turned it on and plugged it in to a 4K TV or monitor – and shock horror there are little bright dots in the image – hot pixels.

First of all, don’t be alarmed, this is not unusual, in fact I’d actually be surprised if there weren’t any, especially if the camera has travelled in any airfreight.

Video sensors have millions of pixels and they are prone to disturbance from cosmic rays. It’s not unusual for some to become out of spec. So all modern cameras incorporate various methods of recalibrating or re-mapping those pesky problem pixels. On the Sony professional cameras this is called APR. Owners of the Sony F5, F55, Venice and FX9 will see a “Perform APR” message every couple of weeks as this is a function that needs to be performed regularly to ensure you don’t get any problems.

You should always run the APR function after flying with the camera, especially on routes over the poles as cosmic rays are greater in these areas. Also if you intend to shoot at high gain levels it is worth performing an APR run before the shoot.

If your camera doesn’t have a dedicated APR function, typically found in the maintenance section of the the camera menu system, then often the black balance function will have a very similar effect. On some Sony cameras repeatedly performing a black balance will active the APR function.

If there are a lot of problem pixels then it can take several runs of the APR routine to sort them all out. But don’t worry, it is normal and it is expected. All cameras suffer from it. Even if you have 1000 dead pixels that’s still only a teeny tiny fraction of the 19 million pixels on the sensor.

APR just takes 30 seconds or so to complete. It’s also good practice to black balance at the beginning of each day to help minimise fixed pattern noise and set the cameras black level correctly. Just remember to ensure there is a cap on the lens or camera body to exclude all outside light when you do it!

SEE ALSO: http://www.xdcam-user.com/2011/02/are-cosmic-rays-damaging-my-camera-and-flash-memory/

Struggling With Blue LED Lighting? Try Turning On The adaptive Matrix.

It’s a common problem. You are shooting a performance or event where LED lighting has been used to create dramatic coloured lighting effects. The intense blue from many types of LED stage lights can easily overload the sensor and instead of looking like a nice lighting effect the blue light becomes an ugly splodge of intense blue that spoils the footage.

Well there is a tool hidden away in the paint settings of many recent Sony cameras that can help. It’s called “adaptive matrix”.

When adaptive matrix is enabled, when the camera sees intense blue light such as the light from a blue LED light, the matrix adapts to this and reduces the saturation of the blue colour channel in the problem areas of the image. This can greatly improve the way such lights and lighting look. But be aware that if trying to shoot objects with very bright blue colours, perhaps even a bright blue sky, if you have the adaptive matrix turned on it may desaturate them. Because of this the adaptive matrix is normally turned off by default.

If you want to turn it on, it’s normally found in the cameras paint and matrix settings and it’s simply a case of setting adaptive matrix to on. I recommend that when you don’t actually need it you turn it back off again.

Most of Sony’s broadcast quality cameras produced in the last 5 years have the adaptive matrix function, that includes the FS7, FX9, Z280, Z450, Z750 and many others.

Why Can’t I Get Third Party BP-U Batteries any more?

In the last month or so it has become increasingly hard to find dealers or stores with 3rd party BP-U style batteries in stock.

After a lot of digging around and talking to dealers and battery manufacturers it became apparent that Sony were asking the manufacturers of BP-U style batteries to stop making and selling them or face legal action. The reason given being that the batteries impinge on Sony’s Intellectual Property rights.

Why Is This Happening Now?

It appears that the reason for this clamp down is because it was discovered that the design of some of these 3rd party batteries was such that the battery could be inserted into the camera in a way that instead of power flowing through the power pins to the camera, power was flowing through the data pins. This will burn out the circuit boards in the camera and the camera will no longer work.

Users of these damaged cameras, unaware that the problem was caused by the battery were sending them back to Sony for repair under warranty. I can imagine that many arguments would have then followed over who was to pay for these potentially very expensive repairs or camera replacements.

So it appears that to prevent further issues Sony is trying to stop potentially damaging batteries from being manufactured and sold.

This is good and bad. Of course no one wants to use a battery that could result in the need to replace a very expensive camera with a new one (and if you were not aware it was the battery you could also damage the replacement camera). But many of us, myself included, have been using 3rd party batteries so that we can have a D-Tap power connection on the battery to power other devices such as monitors.

Only Option – BP-U60T?

Sony don’t produce batteries with D-Tap outlets. They do make a battery with a hirose connector (BP-U60T), but that’s not what we really want and compared to the 3rd party batteries it’s very expensive and the capacity isn’t all that high.

BP-U60T Why Can't I Get Third Party BP-U Batteries any more?
Sony BP-U60T with 4 pin hirose DC out.

So where do we go from here?

If you are going to continue to use 3rd party batteries, do be very careful about how you insert them and be warned that there is the potential for serious trouble. I don’t know how widespread the problem is.

We can hope perhaps that maybe Sony will either start to produce batteries with a D-Tap of their own. Or perhaps they can work with a range of chosen 3rd party battery manufacturers to find a way to produce safe batteries with D-Tap outputs under licence.