Category Archives: Everything Else

Look after Your Batteries In Lockdown.

I received this timely reminder from the guys at Pag Batteries and it contains important information even if you don’t have one of Pag’s excellent batteries. The main one being that you should not store lithium batteries full charged.

2074787f-47de-45d3-9ece-3b97aee4f155 Look after Your Batteries In Lockdown.

If you are currently unable to work as a result of the global pandemic, then you need to make sure that your Li-Ion camera batteries are in good health when it becomes possible to return to work.
 
Batteries naturally self-discharge over time. If their state-of-charge is less than 10% before an extended period of inactivity, they could become difficult for you to recover.
 
It is also undesirable for batteries to be 100% charged for storage as this can damage the cells and lead to a shorter overall life.
 
PAG recommends that you charge your Li-Ion batteries to 50% (anywhere between 20% and 80% is desirable) prior to long term storage of more than 2 weeks. PAGlink batteries should also be in an unlinked state during this period.
 
 
PAGlink Sleep Mode for Storage
 
PAGlink Batteries can be put into Sleep Mode for long term storage, using the battery display menu system. It shuts down the internal electronics and greatly reduces battery self-discharge. The battery can be woken-up with 2 presses of the display button.
 
Please refer to Section 6 of the User Guide for PAGlink Batteries via the links below:
 
 
 
PAGlink Gold Mount Batteries have an automatic sleep mode feature that initiates after 2 weeks of inactivity.
 
To maintain good battery capacity, it is beneficial to cycle batteries every 6 weeks (discharge followed by a full-charge).
 
If you have any queries regarding your PAG batteries, Sleep Mode and storage then please contact support via email: support@paguk.com
 
 
PAG would like to wish you all good health and a safe return to work when that day finally arrives.
 
The PAG team.

Streaming and Live Feeds.

With some difficult times ahead and the need for most of us to minimise contact with others there has never been a greater need for streaming and online video services that now.

I’m setting up some streaming gear in my home office so that I can do some presentations and online workshops over the coming weeks.

I am not an expert on this and although I did recently buy a hardware RTMP streaming encoder, like many of us I didn’t have a good setup for live feeds and streaming.

So like so many people I tried to buy a Blackmagic Design Atem, which is a low cost all in one switcher and streaming device. But guess what? They are out of stock everywhere with no word on when more will become available. So I have had to look at other options.

The good news is that there are many options. There is always your mobile phone, but I want to be able to feed several sources including camera feeds, the feed from my laptop and the video output from a video card. 

OBS to the rescue!

The good news is that there is a great piece of open source software called OBS – Open Broadcast System and the Open Broadcast Studio streaming software.

OBSDemoApp2321 Streaming and Live Feeds.
Open Broadcast Studio Software.

 

OBS is s great piece of software that can convert almost any video source connected to a computer into a live stream that can be sent to most platforms including Facebook and YouTube etc. If the computer is powerful enough it can switch between different camera sources and audio sources. If you follow the tutorials on the OBS website it’s pretty quick and easy to get it up and running.

So how am I getting video into the laptop that’s running OBS? I already had a Blackmagic Mini Recorder which is an HDMI and SDI to thunderbolt input adapter and I shall be using this to feed the computer. There are many other options but the BM Mini Recorders are really cheap and most dealers stock them as well as Amazon. it’s HD only but for this I really don’t need 4K or UHD.

Blackmagic-mini-recorder Streaming and Live Feeds.
Blackmagic Mini Recorder HDMI and SDI to thunderbolt input adapter.

 

Taking things a step further I also have both an Atomos Sumo and an Atomos Shogun 7. Both of these monitor/recorders have the ability to act as a 4 channel vision switcher. The great thing about these compared to the Blackmagic Atem is that you can see all your sources on a single screen and you simply touch on the source that you wish to go live. A red box appears around that source and it’s output from the device. 

atomos_atomsumo19_on_set_in_studio_4kp60_1576110181000_1334246-e1584607746226 Streaming and Live Feeds.
The Atomos Sumo and the Shogun 7 can both act as 4 input vision switchers.

 

So now I have the ability to stream a feed via OBS from the SDI or HDMI input on the Blackmagic Mini Recorder, fed from one of 4 sources switched by the Atomos Sumo or Shogun 7. A nice little micro studio setup. My sources will be my FS5 and FX9. I can use my Shogun as a video player. For workflow demos I will use another laptop or my main edit machine feeding the video output from DaVinci Resolve via a Blackmagic Mini Monitor which is similar to the mini recorder but the mini monitor is an output device with SDI and HDMI outputs. The final source will be the HDMI output of the edit computer so you can see the desktop.

Don’t forget audio. You can probably get away with very low quality video to get many messages across. But if the audio is hard to hear or difficult to understand then people won’t want to watch your stream. I’m going to be feeding a lavalier (tie clip) mic directly into the computer and OBS.

I think really my main reason for writing this was really to show that many of us probably already have most of the tools needed to put together a small streaming package. Perhaps you can offer this as a service to clients that need to now think about online training or meetings. I was lucky enough to have already had all the items listed in this article, the only extras I have had to but are an extra thunderbolt cable as I only had one. But even if you don’t have a Sumo or Shogun 7 you can still use OBS to switch between the camera on your laptop and any other external inputs. The OBS software is free and very powerful and this really is the keystone to making this all work.

I will be starting a number of online seminars and sessions in the coming weeks. I do have some tutorial videos that I need to finish editing first, but once that’s done expect to see lots of interesting online content from me.  Do let me know what topics you would like to see covered and subject to a little bit of sponsorship I’ll see what I can do.

Stay well people. This will pass and then we can all get back on with life again.

to Check Or Not To Check In Your Camera?

Your going on an overseas shoot and trying to decide whether to check in your camera or take it as carry-on on the flight. What should you do, which is best?

24.8 million checked bags went missing in 2018, so it’s not a small problem.

Europe is the worst with 7.29 bags per 1,000 passengers annually, then it’s 2.85 in North America and only 1.77 in Asia.
So if you’re in Europe and travelling with say 3 bags – camera, tripod, lights. Then statistically your going to lose a bag around around once every 45 flights (22.5 return journeys). The statistics actually fit well with my own experience of a checked in bag going missing about once every 2 years. Most of the time they do turn up eventually, but if you need the gear for a shoot this can often be too late, especially if the location is remote or a long way from an airport.
Some years back I had a huge flightcase with a complete edit system in it disappear on a flight. It didn’t show up again until a couple of years later, found by the airline quite literally on the wrong side of the planet. How you lose something that size for years is beyond me. But stuff does go missing. This case eventually found it’s way back because my name and address was inside it.  And that’s an important point. Make sure your contact details are on your luggage and IN your luggage. On the outside I only put my mobile phone number as there are criminal gangs that will look for addresses on luggage knowing that there’s a higher than normal chance that your home or business property may be unattended while you are out of the country.

Another thing to think about is how tags get attached to your luggage. If the bag is a hold-all type bag with two straps, often the check-in agent will put the baggage tag around both carry handles. If a baggage handler then picks the bag up by a single handle this can cause the tag to come off. Also baggage tags also have little additional bar code on the very end of the tag. These are supposed to be stuck onto the luggage so that if the tag comes off the luggage it can still be scanned and tracked. But often the check-in agents don’t bother sticking them on to your luggage.

If you have ever worked airside at an airport, as you move around you’ll often see small piles of luggage stacked in corners from where it’s fallen off luggage belts or worse still are the bags on the outside of bends on the airport service roads, often in the rain or snow, that have fallen from luggage bins or luggage trucks. Many airports employ people just to drive around to pickup up this stuff , throw it into a truck and then dump in a central area for sorting. Most will eventually find their owners but many won’t which is why they are now many specialist auction houses that sell off lost luggage on behalf of the airlines and airports.

Also what happens if you get caught up in an IT failure or baggage handlers industrial action? You valuable kit could end up in limbo for weeks.

So, I recommend where you can you take your camera as carry-on. Also do remember any lithium batteries MUST be taken as carry on. Tripod, lights etc, that can go in the hold. If they go missing it is a complete pain, but you can probably still shoot if you have the camera a lens and couple of batteries.

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/

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.

Beware multiple power supplies!!

From time to time someone will pop up on a forum or user group with tales of fried SDI boards, dead monitors or dead audio devices. Often the reason for the death of these units seems obscure. One day it all works fine, the next time the monitor is plugged in it stops working.

A common cause of these types of issue is the use of individual power supplies for each device. Most modern power supplies use a technology called “switch mode”. Most “wall wart” power supplies are switch mode. Computers use switch mode power supplies, they are probably the most common type of power supply in use today.

The problem with these power supplies is that the voltage they produce is not tied to a common earth or ground connection. A 12 volt power supply may have an output voltage that measures 12 volts across it’s positive and negative terminals, which is great. But the negative terminal might be many volts above “ground”. Used singly this is not normally a problem but if you use a couple of different power supplies with negative terminals floating at different voltages, if you connect them together current will flow from one to the other as the establish a common base voltage.

As an example if you have a monitor powered by one power supply and a camera powered by another, when you connect the monitor to the camera current may flow down the SDI or HDMI cable from one power supply to the other causing damage to the chips that process the SDI/HDMI signals.

Even if there is no damage this current can lead to audio hum or other electrical noise.

How can you prevent this?

First use only high quality power supplies. Wherever possible try to run everything off a single power supply. Powering the camera from a high capacity power supply and then feeding any connected accessories via D-Tap or Hirose outputs on the camera is good practice. Also powering everything by batteries helps. If you must use separate power supplies then connect everything together before connecting anything to the mains and before turning anything on. This should ensure that any current runs through the shield and ground paths in the cables rather than possibly travelling down the delicate signal part of a connection as you connect things together.

AMPAS snub Cinematography and Editing at the Oscars.

I don’t normally get involved in stuff like this, but this has me quite angry. While an Oscar will still be awarded for Cinematography as well as Editing the presentations will take place during a commercial break (the same for Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling).

Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of every movie. If we go back to the very beginnings of Cinema it was all about the Cinematography. The word Cinema is a shortened form of the word Cinematography which means to write or record movement. There were often no actors, no special effects, no sound, just moving images images. perhaps a shot of a train or people in a street. Since then Cinematography has continued to advance both artistically and technically. At the same time Editing has become as important as the script writing. The Cinematography and editing determine the mood, look, pace, style of the film.

As Guillermo del Torro has commented: “Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of our craft, they are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or literary tradition, they are cinema itself”. I completely agree, so the presentations for Cinematography and Editing deserve the same coverage and respect as every other category. Cinematographers and editors are often overlooked by film goers, they rarely make the mainstream headlines in the same way that leading actors do. So really it is only fair that AMPAS should try to address this and give both the credit and coverage deserved by those men and women that make cinema possible.

Sony Venice to get 4K 120fps in Version 4.

Coming just a few days after the release of the Venice version 3 firmware, Sony have just released details of the next major Venice update which is planned to be released in June of this year. Last year when Sony started talking about HFR (high frame rates) for Venice it was expected that 4K would reach at least 96fps. However it has now been confirmed that the version 4 update will include the option to purchase an HFR licence that will allow you to shoot in 4K at up to 120fps.

It is worth noting however that 120fps will only be available when shooting 2.39:1. When shooting 17:9 the limit will be 110fps, still better than the originally promised 96fps. As well as 4K HFR you will also be able to shoot at 60fps in 6K 3:2 and 75fps 4K 3:2 ideal for use with 2x Anamorphic lenses.

The full press release is below:

Basingstoke, UK, 31st January 2019: Sony will be upgrading the capabilities of its next-generation motion picture camera system, VENICE, by introducing High Frame Rate (HFR) shooting, advanced remote-control functionalities and Cooke/i3 and Zeiss extended metadata support, as part of its latest firmware update. Following the recent release of VENICE’s firmware Version 3.0 and the upcoming launch of its Extension System (CBK-3610XS), which was developed in collaboration with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and is currently being used to shoot the AVATAR sequels, the latest upgrade will offer filmmakers even greater creative freedom, flexibility and choice.

The new optional High Frame Rate license allows VENICE to shoot at speeds of up to 120fps at 4K 2.39:1, and 60fps at 6K 3:2 as well as up to 110fps at 4K 17:9 and 75fps at 4K 4:3 with anamorphic lenses. The new additional frame rates are particularly well-suited for drama, movie and commercial productions in 4K and 6K, as well as productions at 50/60p in 6K and VR productions using large viewing angle of 6K 3:2 in 60p. All High Frame Rates support X-OCN recording including X-OCN XT* implemented from Ver.3.0 and High Frame Rate up to 60fps support XAVC 4K and ProRes recording.

“At Sony, we pride ourselves on working closely with our customers and partners to create solutions that enable modern filmmakers to bring their vision to reality just the way they intend to. In fact, High Frame Rate shooting was a feature that was frequently requested by our customers. We listened to their feedback and are excited to now offer this feature to all new and existing VENICE users,” explained Sebastian Leske, Product Marketing Manager, Cinematography, Sony Professional Solutions Europe. “Last year at Cine Gear Expo, we announced that Version 4.0 will include 120fps in 2K. However, we are excited to announce today that, as a result of the hard work of our engineering team, Version 4.0 will now include 120fps in 4K. With firmware Version 4.0, our state-of-the-art VENICE will become even more powerful, fortifying its position as the go-to solution for cinematographers who want to create stunning imagery and capture emotion in every frame.”

Additionally, Version 4.0 of the VENICE firmware will introduce:

·       700 Protocol – A control protocol developed by Sony to connect VENICE to a remote-control unit (RM-B750 or RM-B170) and a RCP-1500 series remote control panel, giving filmmakers greater flexibility in bringing their visions to life. Further expanding on the camera’s existing remote-control capabilities, the VENICE now offers paint control, iris control, recording start/stop, clip control, and more. The upgraded remote-control function also adds new workflows to extend VENICE’s use in multi-camera and live production settings, such as live concerts and fashion shows.

·        Support for Cooke’s /i third generation metadata Technology, /i3 and ZEISS eXtended Data technology (based on Cooke /i Technology) – Extended lens metadata can now be embedded straight into a RAW/X-OCN/XAVC file and HD-SDI output without the need for additional metadata equipment. The new function allows distortion and shading caused by supported lenses to be easily rectified, significantly reducing post-production costs.

Further features include an extended Mask+Line setting in the Frame line set-up, selectable functions for the assignable buttons of the DVF-EL200 viewfinder and pure Progressive HD-SDI output in 25p and 29p.

Both the free upgrade to firmware Version 4.0 and the optional HFR licence will be available in June 2019.

To learn more about VENICE, please join Sony at BSC Expo 2019 in Battersea Evolution, Battersea, London at stand 545 or visit pro.sony/en_GB/products/digital-cinema-cameras/venice.

*Excluding 6K 3:2 50p/60p