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July 12, 2010

Table of Contents

iMovie on the iPhone 4: A Glimpse into the Future of Video Production?
In the Field: Sonnet Qio
Boris Continuum Complete 7 FxPlug Now Available
Matrox Ships MXO2 Family for PC
In the Field: Producing DSLT Timelapses with the Pclix LT Intervalometer

iMovie on the iPhone 4: A Glimpse into the Future of Video Production?

iPhone4I just opened iMovie ($4.99) on an iPhone 4 for the very first time, and put together a little short piece. I was interested to see what it was like to use video shot on an iPhone, but also edited on the iPhone. There are other video editing apps out for the iPhone, and they're all very limited, some are difficult to use. What I found was the new iMovie on the iPhone was fun, easy, and great for short subjects. Let me preface the follow review with a statement from the iMovie page in the App Store, something I find a lot of folks don't pay attention to: "Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 4. Requires iOS 4.0 or later." Always read the requirements for any iTouch, iPhone, or iPad app before you download it. With so many versions of devices now, it's going to become more and more important to pay attention to. If you try to purchase iMovie via the iPhone "App Store" app, it won't let you unless you're directly on the required device/OS. iTunes on your Mac or PC has no idea what device you're downloading for, thus you can purchase any app you wish, compatible or not. Once I purchased and loaded iMovie onto my iPhone 4 (Figure 1, right), I opened it up and found things to be very simple. I can see room for enhancements and additional functions, but I'm sure as will all other Apple software that iMovie for iOS4 will evolved over time. At this version 1.0 stage, it's really nice, simple, and fun.

Creating a Project
The first thing you see is the Project library screen (Figure 2, below). Buy pressing the plus symbol button at the top right, you create a new Project.

iMovie project library screen

That takes you into a editing screen (Figure 3, below). Here you can go back to your Project library screen, play what you've edited, add media (movies, photos, music), or actually edit your material. At the beginning of the Timeline is a gear icon that lets me select which Theme you want to use for my Project. There are 5 themes to choose from, each with its own music track, transition, and title styles. The music track will simply repeat over and over to fill in your whole Timeline. Transitions can be set to none, a simple crossfade, or the theme's own transition, set for .5, 1, 1.5, and 2-second durations. Title styles for each theme give you options for None, Opening, Middle, and Ending, each slightly different and made to be appropriate for that placement in the Timeline.

iMovie editing screen

Importing Media and Choosing Properties
To import material you can tap the camera icon (lower right in Figure 3, above) to bring up the built-in camera to take a photo or film a video clip, using either the front or rear camera, to use in your Project. These are only stored inside this specific project, and are not stored in the traditional Camera Roll app on the iPhone. You can also tap the Import button and import a video clip or photo already existing in your Camera Roll, or select music from either iMovie's list of Theme music titles, or anything in your iPad app's music library (as long as it is not DRM-protected).

Once my media is imported you can tap and drag video clips and photos into different orders, or drag them off of the Timeline to delete them. You can also double-tap a clip to open its Properties window (Figure 4, below).

iMovie properties window

Here you can set a Title Style and a Location, turn on/off its Audio, or delete it altogether. I've already discussed Title Styles. Location (country, state, city) lets you use the item's own location set by the iPhone's GPS if acquired with the iPhone, or if imported, set inside iPhoto or Aperture before it was loaded into the iPhone's library. You are also able to manually set the location. The location data is used in some of the theme Title Styles to show a location on a background map. Audio is interesting too; if you turn it off, I hear only the music you set for your Timeline. If you turn it on, the music track in my Timeline automatically ducks (lowers in volume) quite nicely so you can hear the audio of your video clip.

Trimming Clips
To trim a clip, simply tap it, and it becomes outlined in yellow, and edit pins appear at the start and end. You can drag each pin to expand or contract the In/Out points of your clip. Really, it's that easy. iMovie does not allow you to do a simple cut in the middle of a clip to apply different Title Styles, or turn audio on/off for sections of it. You'd have to import it again, giving you a new copy of it, and trim the copies to match up. This could be difficult, because it's not designed for pinpoint accuracy, although I've been pretty accurate with some trimming. But like I said before, I'm sure more features such as this will be coming in the future.

Also, a clip can be trimmed while viewing it in the Camera Roll app, and it will import into iMovie with that trim applied already. Similarly, double tapping a transition opens it's properties window. Transitions are applied automatically between clips, but can't be placed at the start or end of the Timeline. Hopefully we'll be able to do this with a future update.

Working With Music Tracks
As for the music track, it's either/or. By default, the theme's music is applied, and will repeat for the duration of your Timeline. You can manually change it via the gear icon at the start of the Timeline to the music of a different theme, or select your own music (Figure 5, below). You can only use one piece of music, period. You can't insert different songs back to back, nor can you trim them. The audio track starts at the beginning of the audio file, and play, repeating if necessary, until your Timeline ends. Yet you can make your own soundtrack with VO, music changes, sound FX, etc, import that into your iPhone, then use that as the soundtrack for your iMovie Project.

Choosing music in iMovie

If you make a mistake, you can use the iPhone's traditional undo method. Simply shake the phone, and an Undo dialog box appears letting me chose to Undo or Cancel. Also in iPhone traditional usage, you can pinch my fingers together or apart on the Timeline to zoom in or out, to a limited degree. Swiping your finger left or right over the Timeline scrolls it. Thus you can start/stop playback anywhere on the Timeline you need to.

Saving and Exporting Your Project
When you're done, your can save this project to my Camera Roll in one of three resolutions: Medium (360p), Large (540p), or HD (720p). Yes, the HD is true 1280x720p H.264 video, and looks much better than I ever expected it to look (Figure 6, below).

exported iMovie project

Even with the smaller than SD video I used, which was previously recorded at NAB 2010 on my old iPhone 3Gs, it's still good enough quality to have fun with. Using video shot in 720p with my new iPhone 4 it look pretty darn great (Figure 7, below)!

iMovie edited video shot with iPhone4

Exporting can take awhile if you're doing something more than a couple of minutes long, and exporting in full 720p. The good news is that iMovie will export in the background while you do other things, even if you put your iPhone back to sleep, and give you a message window when it's finished. Once it is exported to your Camera Roll, you can then send these exported movies via text message, email, YouTube, and MobileMe directly. When you do share it from the Camera Roll, the video is reduce to 568x320. You can use this to roughly figure out how long your Project can be to get it out. If you want the full resolution 720p final product, you can use iPhoto or Aperture to offload it in full resolution.

Why iPhone/iOS4/iMovie?
All in all, it's a ton of fun to use! My girlfriend and I are working in different states while I write this. Being able to record and edit a nice, fancy, pretty journal of my day, with meaningful music and all, and share that with her at night, keeps us a bit closer and makes our time apart easier. I will also be using this to blog from events, share findings with associates, help support my consulting clients, and simply share life's special moments with friends. And to come home and have it all in 720p, I can take vacation video full-rez and not have to lug my HVX170 or my 7D around with me, if I want to travel lighter and have my hands free. It's amazing, it's great fun, and the power to edit, as simplistic as it is, shows me where the future is going.

So, why did I review such a simple application that runs on such a tiny screen for a videography magazine read by professionals? First, because the video quality is good enough to use. Also, I honestly believe this is the future of media production. The iPhone 4 records pretty gosh-darn good quality 720p video, and its photos have been rated the best of any smart phone. It does fairly well in lower light, and doesn't blow out in brights as easily as previous iPhone models did.

All in all, the quality of the iPhone 4's 720p video is good enough to produce with. I'm actually going to be using mine for some serious productions to get some unique shots along with my 7D and HPX170. The release and popularity of the short film "Apple Of My Eye" (see below), shot and edited in 48 hours, shows the real power of the iPhone/iMovie combination.

"Apple of My Eye" - an iPhone 4 movie / film - UPDATE: Behind the scenes footage included from Michael Koerbel on Vimeo.

I'm going to give the industry 2 more years, and we'll see mobile products that, although maybe not broadcast quality, will do very close to broadcast-quality HD video, editing, and delivery with more complex, sophisticated tools, in much higher quality than the iPhone does now, or the iPad will soon. They may be odd shapes and sizes, but as with DSLRs, videographers and broadcasters will adapt and learn to use them. Shoot, edit, and deliver on one integrated device is the future, and I honestly believe it's much closer than we think.

Ben Balser

Ben Balser (benb at bbalser.com) is an Apple Certified Master Trainer and Support Professional based in Louisiana. He produces media, consults for studios, and teaches media production nationally.

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In the Field: Sonnet Qio

Sonnet QioLaptops are an interesting breed. With today's chips, they do things that required a desktop just a year ago. But laptops have always had limited expandability. Over the years, companies such as Magma have offered PCMCIA and PCI expansion to an external PCI box, and those solutions have limited success for those who need that functionality. But the onus is on you to fill the expansion box with the solutions you need to make everything work together. Today, digital video and still cameras all use flash media, and 32GB chips are readily available. That's a lot of data to move. But data offload and transfer is a constant of the tapeless live production workflow, and fast and efficient transfer capability is essential to doing the job. The speed attained with eSATA is several times that of current USB and FireWire solutions. Lastly, the typical file sizes of both stills and video continue to grow as still resolution continues to grow, and professional video codecs increase from 25Mbps to 35Mbps and 50Mbps and beyond. Sonnet Technologies' Qio looks to provide a finished solution for the video professional and live event producer who needs to offload and transfer video reliably and quickly to enable more connectivity and capability.

What's a Qio?
When I first read about the Qio (pronounced que-eye-oh) in 2009, I immediately put in a request to get my hands on one. Almost a year later, I have it in my hands. When I spoke with the Sonnet engineers, they explained that it took quite a bit longer than they expected to achieve the lofty engineering goals they had set for themselves. But unlike with RED and other beta hardware, they wanted to make it right before releasing it. My testing has shown that the Qio does what it says it does. In this case, that alone is sort of a marvel because it does a heck of a lot.

The Qio is a diminutive box that seems to be nothing more than a glorified media card reader. If I can get a 45-in-one for $20 at the local electronics store, how could the Qio possibly cost $999? The answer lies in the engineering that doesn't just give you a media card reader but actually extends the PCI Express bus out of the computer and puts it inside the Qio box. Sure, you could connect any and all flash media simultaneously and copy all of them to a hard drive simultaneously (limited to a total aggregate bandwidth of 250MB/sec.), but the Qio offers even more than that.

The slots on the front of the Qio are labeled with the most appropriate professional flash media: ExpressCard slots are labeled "SxS," PC Card slots are labeled "P2," and the CompactFlash (CF) card slots are labeled, well, "CompactFlash." However, they really are fully available for any type of interface card you want to use. For instance, if you wanted to add multiple FireWire busses
to your laptop, you could use the Qio to add two more via ExpressCard adapters and even two more on PC Card adapters. Do you need to read a lot of SD cards? You could load up on ExpressCard, PC Card, and even CompactFlash adaptors and ingest six (or seven if your laptop also has a slot) SD cards at the same time.

For high-end video production, perhaps you want to use an interface such as the MATROX MXO2 I/O interface, which needs an ExpressCard slot, and write to a very fast external eSATA drive. You just can't do something like that natively on a Mac laptop because there is no eSATA port, and only one ExpressCard slot means only one adapter. With Qio, you can handle multiple I/O devices that use ExpressCard or PC Card interfaces, then directly connect several eSATA drives, and know that 155MB/sec. of 10-bit uncompressed 1080i60 video easily fits under the 250MB/sec. throughput ceiling of the Qio.

Then There Are the Drives
I've edited a live-in-the-studio cooking show called Healthy Flavors for PBS using a single ExpressCard slot adapter that provided two eSATA ports. I've had a single-drive top out at 112MB/sec., plenty fast enough to edit ProRes (HQ) at 30MB/sec. I've connected a second drive to back up the projects and output movies of the completed shows before sending the source media drive back to the producers. eSATA rocks! It is so much faster than even FireWire 800. But two eSATA drives was the limit-until now.

The Qio handles all the media cards and gives me four "port multiplier-aware" eSATA ports-all at the same time. I'm not limited to four drives because, with port multiplication, each port on the Qio can connect to a tower of five drives. So with the Qio, I can connect up to 20 eSATA drives in port multiplier-equipped enclosures to my laptop at SATA speeds. It's hard to describe how big a deal this really is. Twenty 2TB hard drives is 40TB of SATA speed-on a laptop. That's before you experiment and daisy chain a second Qio off of the first.

The only limitation is that the ExpressCards, and the PCI Express standard they use, currently only support the 1.0 implementation, which is 250MB/sec. There is a newer 2.0 implementation that offers 500MB/sec., and a 3.0 implementation (which was expected in 2Q 2010) that doubles the speed again to 1,000MB/sec. However, no computer manufacturers have incorporated PCI Express 2.0 or 3.0 into their laptops as
of yet (see http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/PCI_Express).

Sonnet also offers the Fusion F2 drive system. Photos make it look bigger than it is. It's only a little taller, wider, and longer than a single CD case. It stacks perfectly on top of the Qio. Inside the F2 are two notebook drives with two eSATA ports on the back. Connect both drives to the Qio, stripe them in a RAID 0 set, and you have a diminutive 1TB drive that offers speeds of 140MB/sec., and you can actually power two F2s from the Qio's two power pass-through ports-made specifically for the Fusion F2. Sonnet even packages in two short 8" SATA cables and short jumper power cables to allow you to stack two F2 enclosures on top of the Qio, keeping the cable clutter to an absolute minimum.

Sonnet Qio and Fusion F2
The Qio in action, stacked with a Sonnet Fusion F2 drive system

If I had but one recommendation, I'd suggest that Sonnet apply the same "all out" methodology of the Qio to the Fusion F2 and make a Fusion F5 drive enclosure with a port multiplier and an eSATA interface-sort of like Sonnet's Fusion D500P but with laptop drives. Then you could use the Qio to connect 10 drives and still have two eSATA ports free to connect additional drive systems as needed.

The beauty of port multiplication is that you can connect a port-multiplied enclosure such as the five-drive D500P and you can see all five drives on the computer's desktop, with only one cable connection to the drive box. This gives you the maximum flexibility with your media management. For instance, you could take three of those five drives and stripe them into a RAID 0 for maximum speed. Then, each of the two remaining drives could be left as single drives that you copy your footage to and hand off to other producers, effects houses, or even just off-site backup.

An alternative to this could be to use a Fusion F400 where the RAID controller is internal, and it is set to stripe across all four drives with single-drive failure tolerance. This way, you get speed and redundancy with zero setup and one cable.

Testing the Qio
Because the basic functionality of the Qio is so simple, I was hard-pressed to find something that was difficult for the Qio to do. It's an I/O interface. So I put in P2, SxS, CF, and SDHC cards and read from it, wrote to it, and ran speed tests. P2 ingested as fast as I have seen: 20MB/sec. read and 7MB/sec. write. The Qio did everything with aplomb. It was effortless.

Intech QuickBench
Testing P2 offload performance with Intech's QuickBench

Next, I connected to a Sonnet Fusion F2 drive. First, I formatted it as an internal mirrored RAID (as you would for data redundancy on a live event) and enjoyed throughput of 83MB/sec. read and 75MB/sec. write,
as measured by Intech's QuickBench. Pretty snazzy. I then reformatted the F2 as a striped RAID, and throughput increased to 142MB/sec. read and 147MB/sec. write. This blows FireWire and USB out of the water and will continue to do so until USB 3.0 becomes ubiquitous years from now.

Sonnet Qio as RAID
The Sonnet F2 configured for RAID storage on the Mac

Meanwhile, an external 3.5" single SATA drive in a drop-in dock clocked in at 61MB/sec. read and 70MB/sec. write. I also have a stand-alone eSATA ExpressCard adapter, and the speeds I tested through the Qio were at or above the stand-alone SATA adapter speeds. So all the extra functionality of the Qio does not hamper its SATA transfer speeds in the least.

Trial by Fire
But enough about the testing lab benchmarks. To test the Qio out in the field on a live production, I worked with Tim Harry of Bandwagon Media, Inc., who was the edit bay supervisor for the expansive Dallas International Film Festival (www.dallasfilm.org). There, Tim used the Qio to offload the footage from three Panasonic P2 cameras and two Panasonic AVCHD cameras. In years past, the film festival has relied on an army of decks and laptops to transfer anywhere between seven and 10 tapes an evening to be edited into a daily recap montage that was supposed to go online by midnight every night of the 10-day festival.
This year, the workflow was completely tapeless. Tim started off using a USB card reader for the AVCHD SDHC cards and using one of the cameras for transferring the P2 cards. Each of their full 16GB P2 cards were taking 30 minutes to transfer into the computer, and the SDHC cards were taking 5-10 minutes. Tim's ingest session was finishing between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. every night, which was 2 hours past deadline.

Tim Harry of Bandwagon Media
Tim Harry of Bandwagon Media using the Qio for quick offloads of footage for his daily recap videos of the Dallas Film Festival

Three days into the festival, Tim integrated an extra MacBook Pro and the test Qio from Sonnet. Instantly, the upload was completed every night by no later than midnight. Individual P2 cards were transferring at an average of 6-7 minutes each. At first, Tim used a FireWire 800 drive connected to the computer. P2 ingest dropped from 30 minutes to 10-12 minutes. After the first day, he used a 7200 RPM SATA drive hooked up to the Qio, and that dropped ingest time to about 6 minutes per card.

The festival's total volume of P2/AVCHD data was about 500GB. The Sonnet Qio proved to be a huge timesaver, not to mention that it allowed Tim to send the third camera, which he had previously used for ingest, back out into the field. Also, when one of the festival camera ops missed a movie Q&A session, all was not lost. It turned out that one of the photographers used his Canon 5D Mark II to shoot video of the session. The Sonnet Qio handles the CompactFlash cards used by the 5D just fine, ensuring that all the sessions were included in the recap montage.

Sonnet Qio
The Qio slashing offload times at the film festival

Tim only had one hiccup during the 7 days we were transferring from the device, and it was on the last day when all the cards came in. Tim notes, "I'm pretty sure it was my fault, as the previous night I did not have the MacBook Pro completely shut down before the ExpressCard was removed. After some initial hair-pulling and some frantic phone calls, Anthony and I tried a ‘Safe Boot.' That got the computer back up and running. I reinstalled the driver and then my cards reappeared, saving the day. Total downtime was only about 15 minutes, which was still faster than transferring from the camera."

And that would be Tim's only knock on the device: the need to really make sure the Qio is not disconnected while the computer is awake. Sonnet notes that "hot connect/ disconnect" is a feature the company is currently working on. But for now, the connection and order of powering up the devices is critical to smooth usage of the Qio. This is not as critical an issue when it is used with the PCI Express card in a desktop computer in the studio, but it is definitely a concern on a live production with high-volume ingest.

One More Thing
There's one last trick up the Qio's sleeve: the ability to connect to both a laptop with ExpressCard speed and a desktop with PCI Express speed with the PCI Express adapter. For small production houses, single operators, and live producers working with a fixed-installation production setup, this means that, with the addition of a $199 adapter, you can use the Qio during everyday work in the studio and then also use it in the field for quick-turn edits and fast media wrangling without the need to buy two Qio systems.

A Few Concerns
Of course, with all this power comes great responsibility. And the responsibility comes in the form of the PCI Express bus interface that is limited to an aggregate bandwidth of 250MB/sec. So you can try to connect four towers of drives and blow the door off your real-time capability, but the I/O system is capped at 250MB/sec.

In my work with the Qio, I found only minor issues to nit-pick. Primarily, the Qio system has to be connected in a certain order and plugged into a computer before booting up. As previously mentioned, at the time of this writing, it did not yet support "hot" connect. But given that current computers boot up so fast, I didn't find this bothersome at all.

The Qio has a white power LED that did not illuminate when power was applied to the Qio or when it was connected to the computer. When the computer was powered on, the LED illuminated, indicating that the entire system was powered up properly. It sort of makes sense, but I was initially confused when I plugged the power into the Qio and the LED stayed off.

Lastly, the individual slots do not have activity indicators like many media readers do. But the Qio connects to many disparate devices, so the concept of individual "media access" lights doesn't apply if you connect FireWire or external I/O interfaces. The fact that these are the most significant problems I could uncover is testimony to the polish that the Qio has. I'm glad that Sonnet took the time required to make sure it was right.

Conclusion
If you've been following me on Facebook, you've seen me repeatedly tout the Qio as the greatest accessory for a laptop, period. I also had the editors at the Dallas International Film festival give the Qio heavy use for a week, ingesting hundreds of gigabytes of stills and video from P2, CF, and SDHC cards for immediate editing and turnaround for world media outlets. After 1 day with the Qio, they were asking for contact information for Sonnet so they could buy one of their own.

Sonnet has crafted a beautiful solution that gives your laptop far more connectivity, power, and capability than ever before. The system is solid, and in pure professional parlance, it does what it says it can do. This is a great departure from much of the gear in the prosumer world that tries yet fails to achieve their touted goals on many levels. The Qio is, without a doubt in my mind, the most useful professional video production accessory for a laptop-enabled tapeless live production workflow that you can get.

Anthony Burokas (VidPro at ieba.com) of IEBA Communications has shot award-winning corporate video internationally and recorded events since the days of 3/4" tape. He is currently technical director for the PBS series Flavors of America and resides just outside of Dallas.

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Boris Continuum Complete 7 FxPlug Now Available

 Boris FX, the leading developer of integrated effects technology for video and film, today announced that Boris Continuum Complete 7 FxPlug (BCC 7 FxPlug) is now available. BCC 7 FxPlug brings over 210 filters to Apple Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Final Cut Express. The new release features a 3-way color grade filter with built-in keying and masking tools, a video noise reduction tool, an OpenGL particle engine, and real-time title flare and luma glow effects.

Boris Continuum Complete 7 FxPlug New Feature Highlights

New Filters:

  • BCC 3 Way Color Grade provides a professional color grading process complete with three custom color wheels for pedestal/gamma/gain adjustment. The filter includes built-in masking and keying tools to isolate areas of secondary color correction. Separate color grading can be applied to the inside and outside of a mask, eliminating an extra compositing step.
  • BCC Noise Reduction smoothes out video noise using spatial and temporal information derived from the video clip - especially in dark areas of an image.
  • BCC Lens Blur emulates a popular lens blur or rack defocus effect where out-of-focus highlights of an image clip take on the shape of the lens shutter. The filter includes a gradient map layer to control the depth of focus.
  • BCC Lens Shape is a designer effect similar to a rack defocus effect where the shape of the bokeh can be imported from an external layer.
  • BCC Lens Transition is a wipe filter that applies a lens blur or rack defocus effect to the specular highlights of outgoing and incoming image clips.
  • BCC Particle Array 3D creates a grid of particles oriented in 3D space.
  • BCC Pin Art 3D creates a pin board look based on a layer image.
  • BCS Title Flare is a text generator that provides a quick and easy method to create titles. Text can be wiped on and off the screen in a variety of ways including with glows, rays, jitter, mist, noise, and vapor.BCS Luma Glow is a real-time, OpenGL-accelerated filmic glow effect where the soft glow is defined by the luma values of the image.

Compare Mode. Added to over one-third of BCC 7 FxPlug's filters, Compare Mode is a convenient tool that enables users to compare the filtered result with the unfiltered source via either a side-by-side view or a live split-screen view. In the side-by-side view, users can view the unfiltered and filtered image result in the composite window as changes are made to the image. In the split-screen view, users can drag the wipe bar anywhere across the image to compare the filtered result with the unfiltered source at any zoom level. Additionally, the Compare Mode feature includes the unique ability to view the filtered result with a live filtered layer in the timeline.

Apple Motion Camera Support. BCC 7 FxPlug now supports native Motion camera integration for the BCC Extruded Image Shatter, BCC Particle Array 3D, and BCC Pin Art 3D filters - in addition to BCC FxPlug's 3D Objects filters.

Performance Gains. All BCC 7 FxPlug filters take advantage of either multi-processing or OpenGL hardware acceleration to deliver an interactive effects design experience.


Pricing and Availability
Boris Continuum Complete 7 FxPlug is immediately available through the Boris FX worldwide reseller channel and direct from the Boris FX web site at http://www.borisfx.com for an MSRP of $995 USD. Owners of previous versions of Boris Continuum Complete FxPlug may upgrade for an MSRP of $295 USD. Customers who purchased Boris Continuum Complete 6 FxPlug as of April 12, 2010 are eligible to receive a free upgrade to Boris Continuum Complete 7 FxPlug.

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Matrox Ships MXO2 Family for PC

Matrox® Video Products Group today announced the immediate availability of support for Adobe Creative Suite 5 Production Premium software with Matrox MXO2 I/O devices for Windows. The key features of this new release include: full-resolution, full-frame-rate, multi-layer, realtime video editing via Matrox RT technology; lightning fast H.264 hardware encoding for Blu-ray, the Web, and mobile devices via Matrox MAXTM technology; and professional audio and video input and output with 10-bit hardware up/down/cross conversion.

"The Matrox MXO2 devices deliver much more than just I/O for Adobe CS5 Production Premium," said Alberto Cieri, senior director of sales and marketing at Matrox. "Users love the built-in color calibration tool for inexpensive HDMI monitoring and now the MAX versions give them even more added advantages. They benefit from lightning fast high definition H.264 file creation as well as Matrox RT technology that enhances the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine to save time and boost editing productivity."

Key features of the Matrox MXO2 family for PC

  • Convenient form factors for use in studio, on set, in the field, and in OB vans
  • Works with Windows 7 and Windows Vista (64-bit) laptops and desktops
  • Broadcast quality HD/SD video and audio input/output
  • Flexible support for leading codecs, file formats, cameras, and workflows
  • Captures to HD and SD codecs - 8- and 10-bit uncompressed and highly efficient Matrox MPEG-2 I-frame
  • Extensive application support including Adobe Premiere Pro, Encore, Photoshop, and After Effects
  • 10-bit HDMI input, output and monitoring with calibration controls including blue-only
  • 10-bit realtime hardware up/down/cross conversion on capture and output
  • Matrox A/V Tools application for fast capture/playback of audio, video, and still frames
  • Three-year hardware warranty and complimentary telephone support


Additional features with Matrox MAX

  • Lightning fast H.264 encoding with Adobe Media Encoder, Premiere Pro and Encore
  • Matrox RT technology that enhances the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine to provide full-resolution, full-frame-rate, multi-layer, realtime video editing and advanced realtime Matrox Flex CPU effects


Price and availability
Adobe CS5 support for the Matrox MXO2 devices for Windows (Mtx.utils 3.0) is available to registered users as a free download from the Matrox website. Matrox RT features and H.264 encoding acceleration can be added to systems using versions of the MXO2 family without MAX by adding a Matrox CompressHD card.

About Matrox
Matrox Video Products Group is a technology and market leader in the field of HD and SD digital video hardware and software for accelerated H.264 encoding, realtime editing, audio/video input/output, DVD/Blu-ray authoring, scan conversion, capture/playout servers, clip/still stores, and CGs. Matrox's Emmy award-winning technology powers a full range of content creation and delivery platforms used by broadcasters, post-production facilities, project studios, corporate communicators, and videographers worldwide. Founded in 1976, Matrox is a privately held company headquartered in Montreal, Canada. For more information visit http://www.matrox.com/video.

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In the Field: Producing DSLT Timelapses with the Pclix LT Intervalometer

Pxlix LT IntervalometerUsing a DSLR for video may be a relatively new trend, but DSLRs have been creating video for years, one picture at a time. Time lapse is finding a new life in creative media. The night before I wrote this article, I saw a TV commercial for an insurance company that used a time-lapse-like sequence. You see these sequences increasingly in feature films, and they're catching on in event filmmaking as well to represent the passage of time in an artistic and arresting manner. To create these fascinating images, you need a tool called an intervalometer. Some of the modern DSLRs have this feature built into their menus. However, using your brand new DSLR to produce these sequences can be a poor allocation of resources-that is, unless you own a Pclix LT intervalometer. The Pclix LT can be used to trigger most cameras at regular intervals through time. The Pclix LT has been used by scientists and special effects specialists for years. The Pclix is an affordable answer for the event filmmaker who wants to start creating these spectacular time-lapse effects.

Getting Started With the Pclix
The Pclix LT is a not much larger than a deck of cards, but it does a ton of tricks. It can communicate with many types of cameras, not just DSLRs. Its infrared LED can be programmed to trigger any camera that  has an infrared sensor, including Canon PowerShots, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax cameras. It can also trigger a camera by connecting the correct shutter release cable to your camera (sold separately). For a complete list of supported cameras, go to www.pclix.com/pages/ cables.html.

With the custom shutter release, the Pclix LT can control almost all DSLRs. The device runs on a pair of AAA batteries. The batteries can continually trigger the camera for a week, many times longer, before needing
to be changed. If you have projects that may last longer, Pclix offers an AC/DC transformer that can be purchased separately.

Pclix on Canon 5D
The Pclix Intervalometer with the Canon 5D

Getting started with the Pclix was a bit confusing. It has a very basic interface, by design. There is an on/off switch, two program dials, two LEDs, and a shutter release button. At first, this is a little disarming. Where is the touchscreen and menu button you'd expect to see on a device like this? But once the initial programming is completed, very little is needed to operate the device. n fact, the simplicity of the Pclix makes it more
rugged and flexible to use in the field. Plus, the lack of a screen to power is what gives the Pclix its great battery life. You need to program the device to trigger your camera only once; after that, it is permanently in
its memory. Set the interval using the dials, and it starts triggering your camera. If the device is powered down or the power source is disconnected, it will stop controlling your camera, but it will maintain the programming. When repowered, it will continue triggering your camera at the interval it was set to when it was powered down.

Programming the Pclix
Programming the Pclix to shoot at regular intervals is very easy. Just rotate the dials to the duration you want the interval to shoot and watch it go. Without additional programming, it's designed to shoot at
intervals between 1 second and 89 seconds.

The trick is calculating the interval you need. To do that, you first need to think about the duration you want your time lapse to be. Let's say you want to show a sunset with clouds floating through the scene
with a final duration of 30 seconds. Multiply your frame rate by your duration. In the case of NTSC video, we're talking about 900 frames. Then, divide your frames by the time you have to shoot. Let's say you are going to shoot for 2.5 hours. So in a 2.5-hour period you'll need to shoot a photograph every 6 seconds in order to get the 900 frames needed to make 30 seconds of video.

Here's the formula: (Shot Duration x Frame Rate) / Shooting Minutes = Interval)

The Pclix is fully programmable, though the programming isn't particularly easy for novices. You can program it to shoot a specific number of exposures, or program it to give longer bursts to trigger a stubborn camera shutter. It can be programmed to make exposures from 1/10 of a second up to 99 days. Though the programming process can be challenging, the manual is thorough and detailed.

Another nice feature of the Pclix is that you can change the interval you're shooting while it is operating. Just set the new interval; after the next timed shutter release, the new interval will be engaged. This is a great feature if you're shooting something that seems to increase or decrease over time, for example, a church filling up with people for a service over a half-hour duration. For the first part of the shoot, you may want
to shoot every 10 seconds. Then, as people start to arrive, you can increase the frequency to every 5 seconds until the service starts. Then, decrease the interval to 30 seconds again as the service gets underway. You'll end up with a sequence of photographs that seamlessly increases in frequency as the action accelerates and then decreases as the action decelerates. This approach creates anticipation for the event through the lack of action and then a flurry of action through the filling of the space. It culminates in slowing down the action as the space is filled and activity slows.

Time and Composition
For the most part, time lapses are relatively easy to produce. The key to making them work is time and composition. Unfortunately, we're all short on time when we're shooting events, but the effect a properly composed time lapse has on the viewer is well worth the time it takes to create it. Fortunately, the Pclix does most of the heavy lifting. The only thing you need to do is set your camera up in a secure location and
set the Pclix to trigger your camera while you're off working on other aspects of your production.

Pclix timelapse
Shots from a Pclix-driven timelapse shot with the Canon 5D, showing the beginning, middle, and end of people entering a church over a half-hour duration

Composition is another issue. In my experience, the coolest time-lapse photos include a variety of elements. First is an element of nature. Most of the time, it is the sky, but it can also include shadows as the sun moves across the sky. Another element is architecture. An interesting building with reflective surfaces like mirrored glass or deep shadows from a colonnade makes the image come to life as time is reduced. Even better is a piece of architecture that moves, such as a drawbridge, an exterior elevator, or a crane. Water is another great element to shoot in a time lapse. Its reflective surface and constantly changing
nature makes it a great subject matter for time lapse. Harbors, pools, rivers, fountains, bays-they all offer great opportunities for time lapse. Water combined with reflected light has incredibly interesting characteristics, almost like staring into a campfire at night, making it some of the most interesting subject matter to shoot. Moving objects are another great element. Cars, trains, boats, bicycles, and pedestrians all are great subjects for time lapses, especially when they move en masse, such as people crossing a busy intersection. Combine several of these elements together and you have the making of truly memorable images that will impact your viewer or client.

Pclix timelapse
A nature timelapse shot at f8 shutter speed, 1/45 of a second with a 70mm lens over 5 days at 5-minute intervals

Pclix Now and in the Future
Paul Cormack, the owner of Pclix and the inventor of the Pclix LT, is a great resource. He's a special effects specialist experienced in working with motion control and time lapse who's created some of the most cutting-edge effects seen today. He loves to talk about the many applications the Pclix has been a part of. He is also willing to help troubleshoot some of the issues that arise when creating time lapses; for example, he recently suggested that I use aperture priority in order to reduce minute changes of aperture between exposures, which cause a subtle flicker when the images are sequenced together. He also suggested using lenses that have physical settings for your aperture to reduce flicker between continued exposures. When I asked Paul about future versions of the Pclix, he told me that improvements are in the works for future versions but declined to discuss particulars.

If you're looking for an inexpensive way to create stunning time lapses, the Pclix LT is a great product. The fact that it can be programmed to trigger most cameras and can change intervals on-the-fly makes it a great tool. Lastly, the simplicity of using it right out of the box will make the world of time-lapse photography literally a few turns of the dials away for DSLR event filmmakers everywhere.

David Himot (david at himot.com) runs Black Cat Pro Video, an event video production company in Fort Collins, Colo. He is president, membership director, and sponsor liaison for the Colorado Professional Videographers Association (CoPVA).

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