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April 28, 2008

Table of Contents

In the Studio: Using Apple TV as a Sales Tool
ExpoImaging Introduces ExpoDisc Video
Hoodman Introduces WristShot Camera Support System
Finally, a True, Reliable, Universal Locking HDMI Cable for all Video Applications
Tiffen Dfx Software for Apple Aperture Now Available Online
LaCie Rugged Hard Disk Capacity Supersized to 500GB
G-Technology Enhances Product Line For Creative Pros
Class on Demand Releases Complete Training for NewTek VT[5] Live!

In the Studio: Using Apple TV as a Sales Tool

Apple entered the battle for the living room entertainment market in 2007 with the release of the Apple TV device. It didn’t catch on immediately outside of the usual core group of customers who buy just about anything Steve Jobs hawks at Macworld (I might be a little bit guilty of this myself). It’s begun to claim a little more market share in the world of consumer set-top boxes lately, but it has professional applications too. Inside that unimposing plastic shell is a powerful multimedia device that can be invaluable in your studio.

Our studio switched to HDV fairly early for both acquisition and editing. The one area where we have not been able to maintain HD quality is in the delivery stage. At the time at which this article was written—early March—Apple still hadn’t integrated Blu-ray Disc authoring into its Final Cut Studio suite. Now that Toshiba has announced it will no longer be manufacturing HD DVD hardware and HD DVD support from the major movie studios has dried up, it seems like this should be changing soon. In the meantime—and beyond, potentially, when you think of all the things Apple TV can do that a Blu-ray player can’t, like sync with iTunes movie downloads—Apple TV is a great way to present HD-quality videos to your clients.

In our studio, we no longer have to go searching through bins of DVDs when a client wants to see a specific venue. Nor do we have to connect a high-definition VCR to our TV so that clients can see the product in HD. With Apple TV, all our favorite wedding clips are preloaded onto the machine’s built-in hard drive.

Apple TV comes in two configurations (both with the same footprint): the 40GB version ($229) and the 160GB version ($329). Should you need more capacity, Apple TV will stream content from your computer through your high-speed wireless connection. At less than 8"x8", it lets you keep your studio less cluttered. We prefer a more relaxing environment for clients while they watch our videos, so we have eliminated any video equipment from the room aside from the monitor, Apple TV, and a DVD player.

Exporting Video for Apple TV
For Apple TV, Apple has adopted an interface similar to the Front Row software that is loaded onto all new Macs, and the device will work with any Apple remote. Encoding your videos for Apple TV is easy, and it doesn’t even require a Mac. All you need to do is load your video into QuickTime Pro and export it as an Apple TV movie—no messing with settings, as shown below.

figure 1

From Final Cut, the process is almost the same, except this time you select Export using QuickTime Conversion and select Apple TV from the drop-down menu (see figure below).

figure 1

If you’re using Compressor, just select the H.264 for Apple TV codec from the Apple devices menu. Compressor gives you a little more control over the encoding process, although, generally, I find that the basic settings produce excellent results (see figure below). The final video isn’t quite HDV quality, but it’s pretty close. Plus the file sizes are nice and small, which is why you can pack so much video onto the device, especially if you are using the larger 160GB model (our studio has the 40GB model).

figure 1

Encoding Requirements
Although it’s easy to export video to your Apple TV using the presets in QuickTime Pro, Final Cut, and Compressor, it’s worth knowing a little about the specs your video must meet to be supported by Apple TV. Your content must be in 720p (up to 1280x720 pixels) using the H.264 video codec at 24fps for the best results.

The device will also accept 720x432 or 640x480 using MPEG-4. A wide variety of audio formats are supported, including Apple Lossless, AAC, WAV, AIFF, and MP3. Although most people will want to use the built-in HDMI connection to connect to their TVs, component video and optical audio ports are also included.

Using Apple TV for Demo Playback
At a recent bridal show, we loaded our demo material onto the Apple TV hard drive and connected it through HDMI to the TV. We then used our Apple TV as the video source for all the video we presented at the show. It was the easiest setup we ever had at a bridal show, requiring us to bring only the monitor, Apple TV, a remote, and one cable. The device ran nonstop both days of the show, never once overheating or skipping—something I can’t say about the various DVD players and computers we brought for playback in the past.

In the studio, we use it not only to play back videos but also to stream music off our computer’s iTunes library if we have a client who needs some music suggestions. We also use it to show them images from our photo library (this would be great for studios that provide both photography and video). You can also retrieve videos from YouTube should you need to (or if your own clips are offered there) and display them via Apple TV. While we don’t do a lot of same-day edits, the Apple TV has all the right connectors to easily connect to the projector and sound system and may even eliminate the dreaded hum that can happen when laptops are connected to DJs’ soundboards using the mini-plug connector.

Apple TV for HD Delivery
While we only go as far as showing videos to our clients in the studio with the device, other studios, such as Elysium Productions of Orange County, Calif., go a step further and actually use the Apple TV as a final delivery medium for their videos. "We use it to demo videos in our consultation so they see the interface," says Elysium’s Julie Hill. "Usually, if the groom is there, he asks what it is. If they don’t ask, when the subject of HD comes up, we explain what the device is. I explain it as a bigger iPod, as it works basically the same way."

When delivering a wedding in Apple TV format, Elysium breaks up the various portions of the video as separate files, usually following the same breaks as the chapter stops on the DVD. This is an important step because the encoding software does not allow you to add chapter stops. The client can still skip ahead with the remote, just not to specific points. While Elysium doesn’t provide the Apple TV device to its clients, it does provide all the necessary files on disc. Adding the files is a simple drag and drop into iTunes, so even the more computer-illiterate clients should be able to handle the process.

I asked Julie if she still plans on offering Apple TV as a delivery medium once Blu-ray Disc burning is available for DVD Studio Pro (although it should be noted that it is possible to burn Blu-ray Discs on the Mac, using Adobe Encore and an external burner), and she said, "We’ll still offer it because it’s a super-easy solution for us. All I do is send the files through Compressor at the same time that it’s encoding for DVD, so it takes little-to-no effort."

That about sums up my experiences with the Apple TV as well; it’s little effort for great results. If only everything was so easy.

Joe McManus (joe at fvpro.com) is co-founder of Future Vision Productions, an award-winning wedding and event videography outfit based in London, Ontario. He is the founder and president of the Ontario Professional Videographers Association (OPVA), and he was named to the 2005 EventDV 25.

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ExpoImaging Introduces ExpoDisc Video

The patent-pending ExpoDisc Digital White Balance Filter provides a fast and easy custom white balance solution for videographers, and turns what has been a difficult color management problem into a simple routine.

Simply read and set white balance with the ExpoDisc in place to consolidate several on location and post processing steps into one quick and easy custom white balance procedure. Get the same consistent, accurate color without the need to worry about the accuracy of the camera's own auto white balance (AWB), or fumble with cumbersome cards and targets.

Each ExpoDisc is manufactured and individually hand calibrated to fall within strict tolerances of light transmission and color neutrality. Consisting of multiple layers of carefully selected materials, the ExpoDisc is guaranteed to be within +/- 2% of neutral for demanding professionals.

Here is how it works: Varying levels of colorcast typically occur in digital image capture and require compensation as part of the process to create video with good color fidelity. Blue, green, red and yellow colorcasts are not uncommon. Until now, videographers have had to rely on gray/white cards and targets to solve this problem.

But the ExpoDisc acts just like an 18% gray card when used to measure the incident light, and as such can be used instead. The sophisticated design enables the ExpoDisc to receive, scramble and passively transmit mixed light from a wide angle in front of the disc through to the image sensor for a more accurate and efficient white balance correction.

Simply take a white balance reading with the ExpoDisc installed, and your video camera will compensate for and neutralize the colorcast it sees through the ExpoDisc.

ExpoDisc filters are available with quick pressure release mounts in standard sizes, including 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm, 95mm, as well as 4x5.65 flats. Prices range from $69.95 to $169.95.


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Hoodman Introduces WristShot Camera Support System

You are five minutes into a twenty-minute interview holding your camcorder and your wrist begins to weaken...The WritShot® camcorder support system from Hoodman eliminates wrist fatigue by transferring camcorder weight to your forearm. Wristshot® increases stability and frees your hand to operate your camcorder. Ten pounds of camcorder capacity enables WristShot ® to easily mount all camcorders.

Five axis adjustment options allow Wristshot to fit all body types and shooting styles. Going from hand held to tripod is quick and easy because WristShot® comes with a quick release mounting system and a universal tripod adapter mount.

Priced at just $199.99, WristShot® is the easiest way to improve your hand held camcorder Videography. You can check out WristShot® at www.hoodmanusa.com.

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Finally, a True, Reliable, Universal Locking HDMI Cable for all Video Applications

Alas, the oft heard "HDMI is not a locking connector! … It is a self-ejecting technology!" Well, no more. What was once the Achilles heel of a desirable workflow is now the secure backbone. Ottovonmo Productions introduced PPC's patented Locking HDMI cable to the production industry at NAB 2008. Able to lock into any HDMI connector, this new locking HDMI cable solves a myriad of problems in the industry.

The struggle for ever better video quality has become easier with each passing NAB show. We are now seeing dramatic opportunities for high quality footage at affordable price tags and manageable file sizes. We're seeing stand-alone, on-camera recorders that are giving us better than HDCAM quality footage, captured with prosumer and consumer hardware. HDMI especially has opened new doors to the video community for getting higher quality footage, as we are now able to send out an uncompressed 4:2:2 color sampled picture to be recorded to a codec of our choice, just as HD-SDI can, but without the hefty price tag. The one major problem is that there has been no true locking HDMI cables. So what value does HDMI offer to our cameras and recorders if our simple HDMI cable continuously falls out? The answer is "None"; it is worthless. Thus the complaint of many in the production community that HDMI is unprofessional and untrustworthy for professional use. It simply disallows content producers to use this technology confidently.

Adam Wilt, prominent filmmaker, writer and technical reviewer for Pro Video Coalition, had this to say about PPC’s new locking HDMI cable: "I was unable to apply sufficient pull … for fear of damaging the cable or the equipment it was plugged into; it didn’t let go!… Yet a simple squeeze on the raised release button let me pull the cable out when I wanted to… Verdict: Great idea, well implemented.


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Tiffen Dfx Software for Apple Aperture Now Available Online

Tiffen, the world’s premier manufacturer and distributor of its award-winning Tiffen filters, and other well-respected brand name products to the consumer, video, motion picture and television imaging markets, is proud to announce that its award winning Dfx digital filters is now available online as a featured plug-in for Aperture 2.1, the most expansive photo editing and management application today from Apple.

Tiffen invites Aperture 2.1 owners or those considering its purchase to visit Tiffen's website for a FREE fully functional trial version.

Tiffen Dfx digital filters represent a technological breakthrough that both complement and expand the extraordinary creative control Tiffen optical filters bring to imaging. Unlike other software, Tiffen Dfx filters offer effects that truly simulate the extensive range of Tiffen’s world-renowned optical filters, plus much more!

Steven Tiffen, company President/CEO commented. "We are very pleased that Apple invited us to be one of a very select group to participate in their new product launch. With the announcement of our Tiffen Dfx digital filter plug-in for Aperture 2.1, it affirms our on-going commitment to bring innovative new products to the imaging marketplace and offers greater reach in the digital imaging software market."

"The unmatched performance, tremendous flexibility, and infinite creative control of Tiffen Dfx, compliments the powerful tools provided with Aperture 2.1. Tiffen Dfx now quite literally offers something for everyone, whether photo enthusiast, professional photographer, videographer or video editor - anyone who wants precision control over their images."

As with other Tiffen Dfx digital filter software, all are the culmination of years of research by Tiffen, further developed in conjunction with one of the industry’s leading visual effects developers serving the still, television and motion picture markets.


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LaCie Rugged Hard Disk Capacity Supersized to 500GB

LaCie announced today that it has pushed mobile capacity limits by making available a new 500 gigabyte (GB) Rugged Hard Disk.

Designed by Neil Poulton, the LaCie Rugged features a unique scratch-resistant aluminum shell and a shock-resistant rubber bumper to protect data against the everyday bumps, bruises and hard knocks of the real world, while protecting valuable data along the way.

  • New Hitachi 500 gigabyte internal hard disk for massive on-the-go storage
  • Award winning rugged design: ideal for protecting valuable data
  • Shock-resistant metal and rubber bumper with internal anti-shock absorbers
  • LaCie Setup Assistant: proprietary utility for automatically formatting the drive according to your needs

Utilizing a state-of-the-art Hitachi Travelstar 5K500, 2.5-inch internal hard disk, LaCie was able to produce a product nearly identical in size to its previous Rugged offerings. The 500GB Rugged is available in USB 2.0 or a USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 version for speedier data transfers. Bus-powered by either USB or FireWire, the Rugged is designed to interact smoothly with any computer.

"The Rugged Hard Disk is one of LaCie’s most popular products and has been so for a number of years," said Nolwenn Rozen, LaCie Mobile Product Manager. "We recently upgraded capacity to 320GB, and now with recent innovations, we are able to increase it again. With all LaCie products, we will continue to push the envelope on capacity as technology permits."

"LaCie Rugged All Terrain drives are an integral part of our workflow in the field for our travel show," said Art Wolfe, acclaimed photographer and Host of Travels to the Edge public television series. "From the deserts in West Africa to the Antarctic Peninsula and Madagascar to Nepal, I depend on these devices for safe, reliable storage and wouldn't travel without them."

This Rugged version comes preloaded with LaCie Setup Assistant, a proprietary utility that formats the drive according to your needs (Mac, Windows, or cross-platform environments) and automatically copies the user manual and utilities to the computer. The utilities provided include LaCie ‘1-Click’ Backup Software for both PC and Mac and SilverKeeper for Mac.

The 500GB Rugged can store up to 710 movies, 135,000 songs, or 550,000 photos.

The LaCie Rugged 500GB version is available now and may be purchased through LaCie direct and via LaCie’s specialized dealer network at a suggested retail price starting at $299.99. For more product information, visit http://www.lacie.com.


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G-Technology Enhances Product Line For Creative Pros

G-Technology, a Fabrik company and manufacturer of premium storage solutions for the video, media and entertainment market, today announced that it has added the new G-RAID Pro drive to its award-winning product line; increased the performance and quiet operation of its G-RAID drive; and added RAID 1 protection and eSATA connectivity to its G-RAID mini portable drive.

Each member of the G-RAID family integrates the latest storage technologies, and features universal connectivity to Mac and PC laptops and workstations. They provide content creation professionals with reliable, scalable and high-performance solutions to capture, protect, edit and stream media content in an all-digital workflow.
G-RAID Pro - Affordable RAID-Protected Storage for Digital Video Editing Workflows
Media professionals who seek a fast, fail-safe and affordable way to meet the exploding demand for high-definition video can now tap into the power of the new G-Tech G-RAID Pro drive. Featuring a triple interface (FireWire 800, FireWire 400 and USB 2.0) and storage capacities up to 4TB, the G-RAID Pro drive easily handles the bandwidth and storage-intensive requirements of today’s compressed HD formats while providing peace of mind with RAID data protection. The G-RAID Pro drive’s on-board, hardware RAID controller supports both RAID 0 and fail-safe RAID 5 operation with auto-rebuild functionality, and utilizes four hot-swappable 7200 RPM SATA 3Gb/s disk drive modules. Available in June, the G-RAID Pro drive will be available in 1, 2, 3, and 4 TB configurations with prices starting at $999 (U.S. MSRP).

G-RAID 3 - Fast Storage for Professional Content Creation Applications
In its third generation, the G-Tech G-RAID 3 drive now features a quad interface (high-speed 3Gb/s eSATA, FireWire 800, FireWire 400 and USB 2.0) with performance up to 120 MB/second and storage capacities up to 2TB. It uses the latest-generation Oxford 936 chipset in a RAID 0 configuration, which supports simultaneous playback of multiple layers of video in Final Cut Pro, Premiere and Media Composer/Xpress Pro. A new soft on/off power switch and quieter "smart" fan roundout the new upgraded feature set. Shipping in May, the new G-RAID 3 drive comes in 1TB, 1.5TB and 2TB capacities with prices starting at $499 (U.S. MSRP).

G-RAID mini 2 - RAID-Protected Portable Storage Solutions
The all-new G-Tech G-RAID mini 2 drive now features both RAID 0 and fail-safe RAID 1 operation, and a high-speed quad interface. It is the ideal portable storage system for safe guarding content downloaded in the field from solid-state based cameras, including the RED ONE and Panasonic P2. Production houses and creative studios will appreciate its small compact size and tough, all-aluminum enclosure, which make it perfect for capturing and editing on the go or while working on location. The G-RAID mini 2 drive is capable of delivering an unprecedented 100+ MB/second transfer rate when used with eSATA in RAID 0. Eliminating the need to carry an external AC power supply, the G-RAID mini 2 drive is FireWire or eSATA bus-powered. Capacities include 500GB, 640GB and 1TB. The G-RAID mini 2 drive will ship in June with prices starting at $599 (U.S. MSRP).

"From individual creators and videographers to high-end production studios, people have been creating award-winning work using G-Tech drives," said Roger Mabon, vice president of sales and marketing for Fabrik’s G-Technology Product Group. "We take pride in offering the fastest storage systems, with the high throughput and high capacity required to take advantage of the latest digital applications. Enhancing our G-RAID product line gives our customers even more tools to use in a completely digital environment. These superior products reduce customers’ total cost of ownership and increase their return on investment."

All G-RAID products come with a standard three-year factory warranty and unlimited free technical support from representatives who are experienced with the latest content creation applications. For more information, click here.

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Class on Demand Releases Complete Training for NewTek VT[5] Live!

Class on Demand, a provider of professional educational products for creative markets, today announced the release of Complete Training for NewTek VT[5] Live.

Lead by NewTek savvy instructor Faraz Ahmed, the latest Class on Demand for VT[5] live title delivers a phenomenal 6 hours of in-depth instruction for learning the ins and outs of the NewTek integrated VT5 Live production suite. A must have for any VT5 Live user, Ahmed’s instruction ensures users will walk away with the knowledge to master all of the digital media tools found in the new VT5 Live solution.

"NewTek’s VT5 Live offers a lot of value add; virtual sets, paint, editing and more. While the products are user-friendly from the start, the breadth and depth of features drives the need for a comprehensive training product. Class on Demand instructor Faraz Ahmed’s presentation and know how ensures students do more than grasp the basics of this end-to-end solution. Upon completing the program, students will be able to dive deep into all of the programs and fully maximize their VT5 Live purchase by producing outstanding projects," said Paul Holtz, CEO and founder, Class on Demand.

The "Complete Training for VT[5] Live" provides instruction from a real-world perspective including how to set up the VT5 Live environment for professional production, navigate the various interfaces, proficiently use the Live Production features, Audio Mixer, and the highly popular NewTek editing application SpeedEdit. Upon completion of the training, students will know how to leverage all aspects of the VT5 Live solution including the comprehensive Live Production application. Users will be able to create professional looking CGs, Title Templates, Mattes, generate backgrounds and work with more advanced LiveSet functionality.

Class on Demand provides free sample chapters to test drive the training. Visitors to the Class on Demand website can download the Complete Training for VT[5] Live sample chapters "Using the VT5 Live Character Generator" here and "Exploring the Proc Amp" here.

Pricing and Availability
Complete Training for VT[5] Live is bundled with the Complete Training for SpeedEdit training DVD and is available today through the Class on Demand web site and the Class on Demand reseller channel for $99.95 USD.

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