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February 15, 2011

Table of Contents

In the Field: Panasonic Lumix GH2
Singular Software Hits The Trifecta With Hot Product Line-Up For NAB 2011
5-Time EventDV 25 Honorees Mark and Trisha Von Lanken Announce DSLR Workshop in Las Vegas
Ever After Video Productions Announces Next Training Workshop Weekend, Leeds, UK, 25-27 March
Miller Announces Compass Range of Fluid Heads
Sorenson Media Partners with Kulabyte to Create the Squeeze Live Cloud Encoding Platform
Sonnet's RackMac mini Secures Two Mac mini Servers in a 1U Rack Space

In the Field: Panasonic Lumix GH2

Panasonic Lumix GH2DSLRs have blazed through the landscape of event videography for a few years now. Although they offered amazing imagery and new possibilities, they also introduced some new problems: Aliasing, moiré, and audio monitoring are challenges that most of us didn’t have to face prior to adopting DSLRs. Panasonic Corp. of North America has been a part of the DSLR market for a while with its Lumix DMC-GH1K. Interesting as this camera was with its video autofocus functions and articulated LCD, the poor implementation of an AVCHD codec hindered its effectiveness in more challenging environments. It wasn’t until the firmware got hacked and the GH13 was born that it became a serious contender. Although here at Ever After Video Productions we have used the more ubiquitous Canon offerings, we eventually settled on this unsung DSLR hero that will happily use pretty much any lens ever created. With the Lumix DMCGH2, Panasonic released the second generation of this camera. As with all new technology, in the beginning there’s always plenty of room for improvement. Did Panasonic deliver with the GH2? Oh yes, it certainly did!

Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way first. The GH2 is a Micro Four Thirds camera, which has a crop factor of about 1.9 when compared to a full-frame 35mm stills camera, or just about the same size as a 35mm film camera. This means that the depth of field is a tad deeper than the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, but it’s pretty close to the EOS 60D.

The touchscreen is an improvement on the GH1: It’s sharper and now offers touch focus when used with a compatible lens. The kit lenses offer some interesting features such as stabilization, touch focus, push-auto style focus, and complete autofocus, all of which are surprisingly well-implemented. As with all stock lenses, they are quite slow, and I would not recommend using them indoors. A variety of faster Micro Four Thirds and full Four Thirds lenses are available, but obviously they are more expensive.

The implementation of the codec is a mixed blessing. There’s a 24p Cinema mode that gives you a gorgeous native 24p image at either 24Mbps or 17Mbps. You can also use a 1080i60/i50 or 720p60/p50 (NTSC/PAL), but these are limited to 17Mbps. If you ever come across a Panasonic engineer that has a good explanation for this, please give him my number! I’m sure that we’ll see a hacked codec soon that will address this, but as most of us want to have a cinema feel anyway, it’s pretty much a nonissue.

Another great idea from Panasonic was to create a new battery type instead of sticking with the GH1 style. I can only see one advantage there and that’s for Panasonic, not for the user. If I start to sound bitter, let me correct you straightaway: I love this camera. Yes, Panasonic made some odd choices, but read on and you’ll see why we’d happily live with those choices.

You read that right: Unlike all the other current offerings in the DSLR market, this camera handles aliasing and moiré issues extremely well. It’s become all but invisible in just about all circumstances and is no longer an issue. From intricate brickwork to stripy suits, this camera will happily film it all.

If you underexpose and throw your camera about like a monkey with an itch, you can still create problems that the codec doesn’t deal with very well. But I’d like to think we’re all a bit better than that.

The GH2 has a built-in stereo mic. It’s nothing like a RØDE NTG-2 shotgun, but if you have to use it, it actually does give you quite usable audio if you’re close enough to your source. I’d rate it somewhere in between the Canon built-in mics and the RØDE VideoMic.

The GH2 does have a 2.5mm mic input and, more importantly, you can set the levels in four steps (for the built-in mic or an external one). You can also see level meters on your display alongside a very useful histogram and a basic zebra system. When you plug in your external mic, it even reminds you to power up that mic if needed. But there’s still no headphone socket, and you can’t adjust the audio levels while recording.

The GH2 has a 16MP sensor, and its image is scaled down for filming. But Panasonic came up with a great idea: Why not have a 1:1 crop function? The result is a video mode where only the middle 1920x1080 pixels on the sensor are used, which is more amazing than it sounds.

There is no aliasing or moiré at all, and the focal length of your lens is multiplied by about three. This means a 50mm prime becomes a 150mm lens at the touch of a button without degrading the image when shooting 1080p24. If you shoot 720p60 (or 720i50), the camera will sample the center 1280x720, which will give a factor of about 5 instead of 3.

With the GH2, Panasonic has made its camera a lot more light-sensitive. It’s in a different league than the GH1, with the ISO ranging from 160 to an extremely clean 3200 when filming in the regular film modes. When using Crop Mode, grain becomes apparent anywhere above 400 ISO.

The HDMI output of the GH2 is uncompressed while filming, which makes it an interesting choice for those nanoFlash or similar recorders.

Ever After specializes in films with no retakes, uncontrolled sets with mixed lighting, and actors that can be very camera-shy; in other words, we produce weddingday films. Having a camera that can be quick and versatile is a must, and the GH2 delivers. The articulated screen and vastly improved electronic viewfinder (EVF) are great when it’s just too sunny outside, and it’s a pleasure to work with.

There are no overheating issues or warnings, and the battery life is not too shabby (about 2.5 hours of filming per battery, and a battery grip is rumored to be available soon). The only recording limit that you have (NTSC version) is dictated by the size of your memory card (SD). If nothing else, that makes the GH2 one of the few options for an unoperated DSLR camera. The PAL version does have a 30-minute recording limit (thanks to some old stupid tax laws), which I’m sure will be hacked out of the way soon. A 16Gb card will give you 2 hours of recording at 1080p24, the highest setting.

At this point I have to mention that the LCD screens on the Canon DLSRs are superior, no doubt about it. I would go as far to say that the LCD is the weakest point of this camera. We’ve had several instances where the LCD showed aliasing and banding (due to its lower resolution), but when we previewed the footage in the NLE, it looked gorgeous with no traces of these artifacts. These issues seem to stem from a line-skipping system that is used for the LCD screen, but not for the encoding of the footage.

Panasonic Lumix GH2

As a rule of thumb, I would suggest that you use the EVF in low light. The eventual footage still looks better than that, but it will give you a far better indication than the LCD. Of course, you can use the full quality HDMI output with an external monitor to avoid all of these issues, but we found that we knew how to translate LCD quality to actual footage quality after a few shoots.

Panasonic Lumix GH2

As I mentioned before, the stock lenses are useful but slow. At present, we use a variety of vintage lenses (some fast zooms but mainly primes), and I can’t say that I miss the auto functions. Focusing a vintage lens can be done easily with an expanded zoom function, which you can point anywhere with the touchscreen. But as with all DSLRs, this option is not available while recording.

The camera and stock lenses are very light, and while at first they can feel like they were manufactured at a Fisher-Price plant, they are actually quite robust. They do have their uses, especially outdoors where the optical image stabilizer (OIS) allows for some handheld shots that would otherwise fall apart.

Due to the crop factor, users often comment that it is difficult to get a wide-angle shot with Micro Four Thirds cameras. Again, this is where the kit lens comes in handy as it starts at 14mm. There are several other options (such as a 9–18mm zoom); the key is to search for native Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds mount lenses.

We use our GH2 on a variety of rigs: tripods, monopods, DP Slider, Glidecam, and a DvMultiRig. It’s easy to use and balance on all of these, and it’s especially nice to have a very light Glidecam system if you want it.

Susan & Michael, St Augustine from EverAfterVideos on Vimeo.

Mirrorless vs. DSLR
As the GH2 uses a mirrorless design, technically, the term DSLR is incorrect. Panasonic markets the camera as a mirrorless DSLR, and Canon is rumored to be releasing such a camera later this year.

No, it isn’t. For us, the GH2 has redefined the possibilities of DSLR shoots. The solved aliasing and moiré issues, audio monitoring, zebras, no recording limits, improved low-light shooting, 1:1 crop function ... these are all reasons why we bought a second GH2 after one shoot with our first. I’m slightly disappointed that the LCD screen is not of the same quality as Canon’s, but this is only an issue in low light situations where the EVF will rescue you and your footage will be better than expected. An external monitor (even a bargain-basement one) will make this a nonissue for $150.

Due to the massive market share of Canon DSLRs, it’s difficult not to compare the GH2 to Canon’s offerings. Without a doubt, Canon has the edge when it comes to taking stills (something we’re not bothered about), robustness, and, in very rare occasions, the hair-sharp DOF of a 5D Mark II can be cool. Apart from this, I would say that the GH2 gives Canon a run for its money from user-friendliness to image quality and anything in between.

The recently announced Birger Engineering, Inc. adapter will even make the use of Canon lenses (including IS and auto functions) possible on the GH2 and other Micro Four Thirds bodies. So although it might not be perfect, it comes pretty damn close.

Niels Puttemans (niels at everaftervideos.co.uk) runs Ever After Video Productions of Sheffield, U.K. with his wife, Sylvia Broeckx. 2009 EventDV 25 Finalists and winners of IOV Ltd. (Institute of Videography) and WEVA CEA awards for their wedding-day films, Niels and Sylvia were presenters at WEVA Expo 2010.

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Singular Software Hits The Trifecta With Hot Product Line-Up For NAB 2011

Singular Software™, a developer of workflow automation applications for digital media, has announced that it will exhibit at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention, held in Las Vegas, NV from April 11-14, 2011.

Stationed at the Plug-in Pavilion (booth number SL3327F), Singular Software will be showcasing extended support from its innovative audio and video synchronization product line. "Future technology trends are defined each year at the NAB Show," says Bruce Sharpe, CEO, Singular Software. "We've expanded product support a great deal since last year's NAB, so we are thrilled to have the chance to highlight our new PluralEyes, DualEyes and Singular Software Presto releases to the NAB community, as well as learn about all of the additional advancements in DSLR camera technology."

NEW PluralEyes, DualEyes and Singular Software Presto Releases Make Their NAB Debut
Singular Software's red-hot trio of automation tools has been enhanced just in time for Vegas. Singular plans to get the show floor buzzing with its multi-award winning flagship application PluralEyes® and its recently expanded support for Avid® Media Composer® software. DualEyes™, which utilizes the same advanced technology as PluralEyes, will also sport its own significant release. Once Windows-based, the standalone application is now available for Mac® OS X. Singular plans to showcase both products' in-demand audio and video synchronization capabilities.

Singular also plans to feature its upcoming release of Singular Software Presto™ for Final Cut Pro®. Currently compatible with Sony® Vegas Pro®, Singular Software Presto has already won the hearts of Vegas Pro users tasked with preparing presentation videos. Ideal for conferences, training sessions, and workshops, Singular Software Presto leverages sophisticated computer vision and audio synchronization techniques to automate the assembly of presenter footage, slideshows, and audio elements, creating professional-looking video packages in minutes instead of hours. The long-awaited Final Cut release will be available to the public in the upcoming weeks.

For more information about Singular Software, please go to http://www.singularsoftware.com or visit us at booth SL3327F at the Plug-in Pavilion.

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5-Time EventDV 25 Honorees Mark and Trisha Von Lanken Announce DSLR Workshop in Las Vegas

Mark & Trisha Von Lanken of Von Wedding Films/Von Training share a passion for event filmmaking. They will be hosting a DSLR Encounter A-Z (Audio to Zeiss) in Las Vegas, March 2, 2011. This DSLR Encounter is not for the faint of heart, but for all creative event filmmakers who truly want to harness the full potential of the DSLR camera. The things that they will be sharing will not only help you with your shooting, but save you thousands of dollars on gear and hours of trial and error. A portion of the DSLR Encounter will include a desert shoot for a Bride & Groom’s first look. The DSLR Encounter will be limited to ten attendees to give an up close and personal experience. The following day the Von Lankens are making two slots available to observe them on a Las Vegas wedding complete with a same day edit.

Mark & Trisha have inspired and trained videographers and filmmakers from around the globe. Having collected numerous awards from WEVA CEAs to EventDV’s Top 25 the last five years, they continue to pursue excellence with integrity and share their passion to further the growth of the industry. Join them in Las Vegas for an awesome learning experience. Visit http://vontraining.com to reserve your spot.

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Ever After Video Productions Announces Next Training Workshop Weekend, Leeds, UK, 25-27 March

Ever After Film SchoolEver After Video Productions is very excited to announce the dates for our next training weekend. This comprehensive workshop will take place over the weekend of 25-27 of March. Starting on Friday evening the 25th of March there will be an informal get-together, where everyone will get the opportunity to showcase their latest work for constructive feedback. On Saturday and Sunday expect some intensive training in all matters related to making stunning wedding films. The focus will be on hands-on experience in both filming and editing techniques. We will be staging a bridal prep and photo shoot to give everyone the opportunity to get some killer shots for a demo reel without the pressure of a real wedding. Not ignoring the reality of every business, we will also discuss our marketing and business strategies.

The workshop takes place at the Queens Hotel, Leeds, UK. The seminars and bridal prep shoot will take place in this gorgeous hotel, right next to the train station. To minimise the cost, accomodation is not included. Attendees can choose to stay in the hotel or use alternative accomodation. Coffee/tea breaks as well as lunch on Saturday and Sunday are included. Join us and discover some new filming/editing techniques, find out how to introduce a DSLR in your workflow, try some new gear like a DPslider or a Panasonic GH2, get some killer demo-reel shots and have a lot of fun filming and exchanging ideas with colleagues.

This workshop has limited places so that we have plenty of time to address individual questions. To book your place on the workshop a 50% deposit is required, the final balance is due 2 weeks before the workshop. Book your place before the 1st of March to get the early bird rate of £580 instead of £650.

Click here for more information or to book your place on the 26-27 March Leeds workshop £290 (non-refundable booking fee).

Ever After Film School

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Miller Announces Compass Range of Fluid Heads

The Compass range of fluid heads is Miller Camera Support’s multi-award winning innovation, bringing to the market a premium camera support option with professional performance at very competitive pricing. The stylish and operator friendly design incorporates features like a wide payload range, selectable pan and tilt drag settings, illuminated bubble level, in a compact and lightweight 75mm and 100mm ball levelling fluid head. The Compass range has proved to be a perfect match for the latest HDV, DVCAM, XDCAM, P2HD, ENG and highly accessorised DSLR cameras.

Fluid Drag that Outperforms All the Competition
The Compass range retains the same drag components used in the renowned Arrow range. The result is soft take offs, super stable pan/tilt moves and smooth stops. There is nothing as smooth as a Miller, the inventor of pan and tilt fluid heads.

3 Models Suit all Applications
The 75mm Compass 15 and Compass 20 fluid heads provide professional performance for the latest lightweight cameras and camera configurations with a payload range between 2-9kg (4-20lbs) for Compass 15 and 2-12kg (4-26lbs) for Compass 20. With the best performing pan and tilt fluid drag range combined with a selectable counterbalance system, the versatile Compass fluid heads and its high quality construction ensures reliability in the toughest conditions.

The 100mm Compass 25 fluid head has a selectable 4-14kg (8-30lbs) payload range which provides for a variety of camera configurations to be used with Miller’s lightweight and compact tripods systems. The Compass 25 incorporates 5 settings of pan and tilt fluid drag combined with a four-position selectable counterbalance system. A quick release camera mounting system utilising the standard Euro camera plate, common to the Arrow range of fluid heads allows the Compass 25 Fluid Head to integrate easily into existing camera support inventories.

A variety of system packages are available, from the 2-stage 75mm or 100mm alloy tripod to ultra-versatile 2-stage or 3-stage Solo DV/Solo ENG tripod to the ultimate in quick deployment, the Sprinter 2-stage carbon fibre tripod; there are system packages to suit a wide range of applications.

Smartly Designed Compass Accessory Mounting Block
To meet the setup demands of today’s new trend of highly accessorised DSLR and video cameras, Miller engineers brought to the market a Compass accessory mounting bracket to allow the user to side mount camera accessories (monitors, lights etc.) up to 3kg (6.6lb) to all Compass fluid head range. The beauty of the smartly designed mounting block improves the camera’s Centre of Gravity, therefore, improving performance.

Matched with an Accessory Adaptor with standard ¼” & 3/8” tap holes, a static position is achieved for mounted accessories such as monitors to stay in sight of user whilst panning.


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Sorenson Media Partners with Kulabyte to Create the Squeeze Live Cloud Encoding Platform

Sorenson Media today announced a new partnership with Kulabyte, an industry leader in live HD and mobile video streaming, to bring the new Squeeze Live cloud encoding platform to market. Currently in beta, the new solution, which was announced today from World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain, enables high-volume live video encoding for distribution to any mobile device or computer.

Squeeze Live’s architecture enables the event producer to entirely re-think traditional approaches to live broadcast. With audiences increasingly consuming media on multiple devices at multiple bitrates, adaptive bitrate streaming capability provides a high-quality, reliable, consistent stream, even for challenging bandwidth environments. Preparing multiple renditions previously required additional on-site encoding hardware, bandwidth and infrastructure. Squeeze Live eliminates this wasteful per-event overspending and logistical problem, in favor of a flexible, modular, yet comprehensive high-quality live streaming platform.

Squeeze Live provides the ability to seamlessly connect video-on-demand encoding of live streams, ensuring complete event coverage all within a single cloud platform.

“We are delighted to be working with Kulabyte to harness the power of the cloud and produce the most intuitive, scalable and cost-effective live streaming encoding solution ever brought to market,” said Peter Csathy, president and CEO of Sorenson Media. “Squeeze Live is an elegant solution to the stubborn, thorny and expensive problem of encoding and delivering numerous live video outputs. Squeeze Live is driven by a fundamentally new approach shaped by the cloud, with deep collaborative video expertise and rigorous execution. There is nothing else like it in the marketplace.”

Squeeze Live significantly streamlines and optimizes the previously complex, cumbersome and costly process of encoding video for online delivery for live events—including sporting events, awards ceremonies, conferences, breaking news and exposition presentations. The Squeeze Live solution first passes through a live video stream front-end encoder onsite. The encoded stream is then sent to the cloud for encoding in real time into multiple formats and bitrates, optimized for playback on TV, desktop or laptop computers, or on a broad range of mobile devices, including Blackberry, iPad and iPhone, Android and others. In the final step of this real time process, multiple renditions of each video profile are delivered to the content delivery network (CDN) of choice for streaming.

“We are pleased and excited to be a part of this collaboration between two undisputed industry leaders with both broad and deep expertise in key strategic areas of online and mobile video,” said Peter Forman, CEO of Kulabyte. “Our live cloud technology represents an architectural breakthrough that is changing the face of the video streaming market, and Sorenson Media’s Squeeze Live represents a combined solution that is unlike anything else in the market today; the most scalable and cost effective solution for live video encoding, period.”

Primary benefits for Squeeze Live users include:

  • Significantly reduced capital and operating expenditures, including reductions in required equipment, dedicated workforce and other infrastructure.
  • Greatly reduced bandwidth requirements and power consumption—all of the real-time encoding takes place in the cloud, reducing client bandwidth and server requirements and eliminating the need for HVAC equipment/support.
  • Flexible deployment options that eliminate over-purchasing hardware, bandwidth and IT resources; Squeeze Live offers efficient, flexible deployment—all hardware included.
  • Multiple renditions; Multiple bitrate files in the most popular formats, including H.264 and Flash.
  • A highly intuitive single dashboard: Once users indicate how many original streams need to be encoded and the number of formats needed per output, Squeeze Live automatically determines server requirements and fully automates provisioning in the cloud.

Squeeze Live’s unique effectiveness results from the deep industry expertise of both Sorenson Media and Kulabyte. A market leader and innovator in video since its launch in 1995, Sorenson Media has powered the evolving online and mobile video industries with transformative technologies for the encoding, management and deployment of the highest quality of video across the broadest array of platforms and devices. Founded in 2005, Kulabyte has established its place as a recognized leader for high-definition and mobile live video encoding and streaming, for both H.264 Flash and HTTP.

Sorenson Media will demonstrate a beta version of Squeeze Live at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain on February 15 and 16 and at the Broadcast Video Expo in London, England on February 15, 16 and 17.

Pricing and Availability

Squeeze Live is currently in beta and available immediately. For more information about Squeeze Live, visit http://www.sorensonmedia.com/squeeze-live/. For custom pricing options, contact a member of the Sorenson Media sales team at sales@sorensonmedia.com.

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Sonnet's RackMac mini Secures Two Mac mini Servers in a 1U Rack Space

Sonnet Technologies today introduced its RackMac™ mini rackmount solution for the latest line of Mac® mini servers and computers. Ideal for the office or for transportable rack use, the unit supports the installation of one or two Mac minis into a 1U rack space. The RackMac mini manages airflow and provides a front-panel power switch and USB port for each Mac mini.

Constructed of rugged steel with a black powder-coat finish, the 11-inch-deep RackMac mini firmly secures the computers behind a smart front panel. For each Mac mini, the front panel includes DVD, IR sensor, and power indicator slots; a power switch; and a USB port. Pressing each computer's power button, connecting a keyboard or mouse, or attaching a USB drive is simple.

A padded locking bar securely holds the Mac minis in place for transportable rack use. Convenient cable tie points allow all cables to be secured, as well. The RackMac mini comes preassembled.

Enclosed inside the RackMac mini, Mac minis keep ambient temperature chill for reliable operation. The Sonnet rackmount solution's design prevents recirculation of hot air around the Mac minis, ensuring that cool air goes in a one-way path through the front panel openings to the computers' air intakes, exiting out the rear.

"The Mac mini server is a great server for most applications. The remaining challenges have been how to mount them securely, how to cool them reliably, and how to turn them on without pulling them out of the rack," said Robert Farnsworth, CEO of Sonnet Technologies. "The RackMac mini is the perfect solution. Just add Mac minis."

RackMac mini (part number RACK-MIN-2X) is available immediately with a suggested retail price of $169.95.

More information on the RackMac mini is available at Sonnet's website at http://www.sonnettech.com/product/rackmacmini.html


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