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May 12, 2008

Table of Contents

Sony PMW-EX1
New SACHTLER ARTEMIS Vest and Arm Upgrade Allow for Operating Lighter & Longer
Music 2 Hues Releases a New Addition to its Flagship Series Production Music Line
FTI Introduces SmartWhite Printable Surfaces for Optical Disc Media Products
LiveTypeCentral.com Releases 8 new LiveType Theme Packs
Royalty Free Music Solution Rocks at Beatsuite.com!
Boris FX Adds Seven New Transition Plug-ins to the Recently Released Final Effects Complete 5.0 Package
Acoolsoft PPT2DVD 2.0 Released - Burn PowerPoint to DVD

Sony PMW-EX1

The perfect camera. That phrase means different things to different people, depending on whom you ask, the type of work they do, and how they’ve developed their workflow. How we decide what constitutes the perfect camera is usually determined by frustration with our current camera’s limitations and/or omissions. Typically, we find elements we like about certain cameras, but almost inevitably we find them lacking other features we desire. For instance, I loved the HD imagery of the Sony FX1 but found the 12x zoom limiting and was disappointed that it didn’t have progressive shooting modes. Naturally. I bought Sony V1Us when they came out because they addressed these issues with a 20x zoom lens and shot true 24 and 30p. However, because they had only 1/4" chips, their low-light performance was even worse than my FX1s’, which were just passable in low light. So my search continued.

Needless to say, those experiences over the last few years solidified my camera wants and needs and helped me formulate the characteristics of my own personal "perfect camera." I was been waiting on a camera that would deliver the high-quality HD images I was used to getting from the FX1s and V1Us, but would be great in low light, include progressive capabilities, and be able to get very clean slow motion via overcranking for specialty shots. I also was looking for a way to speed up my editing process via some sort of tapeless workflow because I do a same-day edit at almost every one of my weddings. And I wanted all of this in a camera for under $10K. That’s not too much to ask, right?

figure 1Best of Both Worlds?
Given the aforementioned wish list, you can imagine my excitement when Sony announced its PMW-EX1 at NAB 2007. I thought I’d finally found that long-sought-after perfect camera. Of course, I say that tongue-in-cheek, knowing full well that there’s no such thing—however ideal a model may seem when it’s under glass at NAB, there are always trade-offs you discover when you bring a camera into your workflow, and the EX1 is no different. Regardless, with its tapeless workflow via SxS cards, full-raster HD, sizeable 1/2" chips for much better Depth-of-Field (DoF) control and low-light performance, and progressive shooting modes, it promised many of the most important features I was looking for in a camera, and I couldn’t wait to see if it lived up to the hype.

It’s clear from the outset that Sony engineers meant the EX1 to be a hybrid of their higher-end XDCAM series and their popular prosumer models like the Z1. It even carries the CineAlta badge, which means it was manufactured in the same factory responsible for the XDCAM models. As a result, it has many of the high end features found in larger shouldermount cameras like the F350, packed into the body size and shape of FX/Z series, while weighing about a pound more than the latter.

Camera Controls: The Good, the Bad, and the Baffling
For the most part, the controls are straightforward and easy-to-find, especially for a lifelong Sony user like myself. Because I’m primarily a handheld shooter, I love the rotating handle which allows you to shoot at a variety of angles without putting strain on your wrist.

Overall, the menu’s are easy to navigate, and the controls are intuitive with one glaring omission: You can’t assign picture profile settings and specific camera operations like overcrank to an assignable button. For instance, the Panasonic HVX200 allows you to go into over-undercrank mode simply by pushing a single assignable button. By comparison, to go into these modes with the EX1, you have to access two separate menu settings that are found at opposite ends of the menu, which is neither intuitive nor especially helpful to run-and gun shooters. I’m hoping to see this issue corrected with a future firmware update, but not holding my breath.

Another feature of the camera that falls under the "what were they thinking" category is the placement of the power button. The off button is inexplicably located in the middle of the media and camera settings. Consequently, until I got used to it, I often accidently put the camera into media mode when I meant to turn it off, which drained the battery without me knowing it. But these few sticking points aside, there is plenty to be excited about with this camera.

figure 1Focal Points
One of the EX1’s major strengths is its professional 14x Fujinon lens with its novel engineering, capable of both servo-motor and true mechanical focusing. Most cameras in this price range use strictly electrical focusing methods, which means when you focus, the barrel is unmarked and spins forever, making accurate focusing difficult at times. However, with the EX1, a simple tug backward of the focus ring locks the camera into full manual setting, where you physically turn the glass and it literally stops at macro and infinity. It also has foot and meter readings in this setting. This is very important for pulling accurate critical focus.

Traditional electronic focusing modes are also available, including full auto and a manual with focus assist. It also has a macro focus setting, which allows you to get really close to your subject and get some great shallow DoF shots of wedding rings, invitations, and things of that nature.

The professional iris ring is truly a joy to work with. It is a full-sized ring with all the f-stops clearly labeled, and it’s located right near the focus ring, which makes it very easy to get dialed in quickly and accurately. All of these elements combine to allow the user to get some incredible imagery out of this camera.

Image Quality
To claim that the EX1 picture quality is simply breathtaking would not, in this case, be typical new-camera-owner hyperbole. I’ve been shooting HDV for 4 years now but I’m consistently astounded at the quality of the footage this camera produces. Colors are vivid and realistic without being overly saturated. With the EX1’s 3 full-raster 1080 HD chips, there’s a noticable increase in resolution over my past HDV cams, but it’s more than that.

Thanks to the shallow DoF afforded by the 1/2" chips, the 24 and 30p progressive modes, and the camera’s unlimited tweaking of cine and gamma settings, the footage I shoot with the EX1 also has a filmic look to it, something Sony cameras haven’t exactly been noted for in the past.

The low-light ability of this camera is phenomenal. Like any camera, the EX1 still benefits from some auxiliary lighting, but even the darkest venues are no match for the 1/2" chips. I can take the EX1 up to 12dB and still get very clean, crisp images with little noise, and have found it more than up to the task for all but the darkest of lighting situations. Recently, in a very challenging lighting situation, I put it at 1/40 shutter speed and was floored by result. I got very clean images with colors that still popped with very little grain. Finally, a camera with pristine HD picture quality, with the low-light abilities of your best SD cameras!
figure 1Shooting Modes
One of the biggest strengths of the EX1 is the wide variety of formats and shooting modes at your disposal. I shoot primarily in 1080/30p, but you can shoot in 720 and 1080 at a variety of frame rates in both progressive and interlaced modes.

In all of the different shooting modes you have the option to use either HQ or SQ settings. The HQ setting yields a 35Mbps stream, whereas the SQ is 25Mbps, a lower-quality HDV setting that allows more footage to be recorded on your cards. Coming from an HDV workflow, I have not shot a single thing in that mode and instead have shot everything in HQ mode, preferring the higher quality over a little bit of extra recording time.

The EX1 and the SDE
At the heart of the EX1 workflow is its SxS cards, which were developed by Sony in conjunction with SanDisk. They’re based on the Express Card interface, and footage taken on them can be ingested for editing in a variety of ways. The simplest and fastest way is inserting them directly into your laptops Express Card slot (in my case, a MacBook Pro), where footage can be transferred to your computer at speeds ranging from 4x to 8x. Regardless of the speed you choose, it’s very fast. For example, a full 8GB card with 25 minutes of HQ footage takes less than 5 minutes to import. Needless to say, I will not be missing my old tape-based workflow anytime soon—especially on my SDEs.

As someone who does Same-Day Edits at almost every wedding, the day is usually segmented into 20-30 minute blocks of time, so this works perfectly with the 8GB card workflow. For example, at most weddings my assistant and I will each shoot about 10-20 minutes of prep. We meet up before ceremony and I dump both of our cards at that time and back them up.

Out here in Southern California, almost all of our non-Catholic ceremonies are about 20 minutes long, which means they can be easily covered with one 8GB card in HQ mode. Again, this makes importing ceremony footage for SDE and back-up very easy. Likewise, the cocktail hour and grand march/first dance can also usually be fit on one 8GB card. This is all I need for my SDEs, so once I have all of the footage from these 8GB cards, I have my second shooter switch to the 16GB card for the bulk of the reception while I edit for the SDE.
figure 1Going Tapeless: Other Issues
To be sure, most of us will experience a bit of fear of the unknown when we first switch to a tapeless workflow. But it quickly diminishes when you understand the proper protocols and establish a good plan for backup. At the time of this writing, I’ve shot 8 weddings and a few other events with my EX1s and have developed a pretty solid workflow. Until the cost of XD-compatible Blu-ray Discs come way down, I’ve decided to use primarily 8GB cards with my cameras, because I can back up each card to its own dual-layer DVD. This makes backing up my cards very simple and straight forward. Each card gets assigned its own dual-layer DVD so after a shoot, so instead of a pile of tapes, I have about 6-8 DL DVDs as backup. I also have backups on two different RAID partitions, one internal and one external.

One of the common knocks against the EX1 is the expense of the SxS cards. Currently, SxS cards cost about $500 for 8GB and $900 for the 16GB variety. When you factor in how many you may need for a typical wedding or event, the cost can seem fairly daunting.

I prefer to look at it long-term. I currently use six 8GB cards and one 16 GB card. Four of those 8GB cards came free from Sony (2 came with my EX1s and 2 came free via rebate), so my total investment in cards for my two cameras has been $1,800. That’s not bad when you consider that I figured I spent over $1,200 in tapes last year alone. Factor that out over 5 or so years and the SxS not only is a lot faster and more efficient than tape, it is actually cheaper in the long run. Also, while tape is fixed at its current storage limit and price, SxS card capacities will rise and costs will certainly come down as less expensive third-party solutions become available.

The logistics of my new tapeless workflow mean that I need to start pushing large amounts of data around for archive and backup. So I decided to invest in an eSATA setup. For the uninitiated, eSATA is capable of speeds that rival and even exceed the transfer rates of internal-drive systems. With a relatively cheap adapter, I turn my Express Card port in my Mac Book Pro into two eSATA ports. On site, once I am done dumping a card onto my laptop’s hard drive, I immediately take out the card and pop in the adapter and back up the footage to an external portable eSATA drive. The extra time it takes to switch out using the Express Card port is more than made up for with the lightning fast speeds. I am able to import an 8GB card’s contents to my computer and have a safe external backup in about 5 minutes. Cards are never erased until I have 2 backups of the footage, one on my laptop’s HD and the other on an external drive. This gives me the much-needed peace of mind required with a tapeless workflow.

Picture Perfect?
While the EX1 is far from the perfect camera, it has very much lived up to the hype and even exceeded it in some areas. The fact is, I like it so much I may even use this camera for more than a year. For those who know me and how often I switch cameras in my neverending search for the perfect one, that speaks volumes about how much I like this camera. Simply put, this camera is perfect for me at this particular time in my career.

Daniel Boswell (daniel at dvartistry.com), a Menifee, Calif.-based wedding videographer, was named to the 2007 EventDV 25.

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New SACHTLER ARTEMIS Vest and Arm Upgrade Allow for Operating Lighter & Longer

Sachtler adds two more innovations to the artemis line of professional camera stabilization systems. The ACT 2 C Carbon Fiber Spring Arm Upgrade turns the artemis ACT 2 arm into the world's first carbon fiber spring arm. Plus the new ACT 2 Vest provides a host of advances to promote comfort, fit and versatility for camera stabilizing systems including the artemis EFP, EFP Pro SDI HD, Cine, and Cine HD.

Working in collaboration with racecar industry experts, Sachtler's engineers developed the Carbon Fiber Upgrade for the artemis ACT 2 standard aluminum spring arm. For this upgrade, the ACT 2 Arm’s aluminum skeleton or "bones" are replaced by new carbon fiber components. Carbon fiber’s lightweight and outstanding torsional strength make the ACT 2 C Upgrade an asset for lengthy or fast-paced shoots.

Like the standard ACT 2 aluminium model, the upgrade retains the torsion-free design and features three, quick-to-change spring sets that handle payloads from 24-57 lbs/11-26 kg.

When combined with the new artemis ACT 2 Vest, operation of the camera stabilizing system is optimized. The ergonomically-designed ACT 2 Vest provides a brilliant new padding system to facilitate a comfortable fit for any body type. It features six moveable pads that may be custom positioned to prevent pressure points and promote even weight distribution. To enhance wearability, the pads are smartly designed with a soft wicking core and covered with top grade nylon Cordura so the operator stays dry throughout the shoot. Furthermore, ACT 2 pads are easy to remove for washing.

The Vest’s new memory-fasteners located at the chest and hip straps enable quick & easy adjustment. During shooting breaks, the entire Vest can be loosened with a simple flick of the wrist, then easily refastened so that the belts return to their preset positions. Thanks to the memory-fasteners, the Act 2 Vest "remembers" the fit and again suits the operator's body perfectly--no readjustments are necessary.

The new ACT 2 Vest and ACT 2 C Arm feature industry standard connections for compatibility with systems by Sachtler and other popular makes. The development, production and assembly of artemis products take place at the Sachtler headquarters in Munich, Germany. For more information about artemis systems, click here.

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Music 2 Hues Releases a New Addition to its Flagship Series Production Music Line

Music 2 Hues has released "New Age Piano," a new addition to its Flagship Series production music line. Andy Wells, president of Music 2 Hues adds, "With the addition of this new release we are providing our content developers with new and exciting music selections.

"New Age Piano" is now shipping worldwide. "This release satisfies the needs of our clients who have been asking for a CD of somber, yet progressive piano styled music," Wells says.

Music 2 Hues' Instant Download Center now allows the user to download complete categories and CDs at a discount from the single track price. The Download center provides all the music from the company' Flagship Series CDs for immediate download. Over 1000 music tracks and 500 sound effects are offered in the download center. Visit website for more information on these products.

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FTI Introduces SmartWhite Printable Surfaces for Optical Disc Media Products

Falcon Technologies International (FTI), the worldwide leading manufacturer of optical data storage discs for professional and archival applications, today introduced a complete line of recordable discs featuring innovative SmartWhite printable surfaces. Designed to yield the highest quality printing results with both inkjet and thermal printers, SmartWhite printable surfaces are available on FalconMedia Pro DVD-R, CD-R and Blu-ray Disc recording media.

Ideal for a wide range of applications from service bureaus and video/film production houses, to corporate offices, government agencies, houses of worship and medical institutions, FalconMedia Pro DVD-R, CD-R and Blu-ray Discs featuring SmartWhite Printable surfaces deliver the unsurpassed quality for which FTI is known.

"Our universal SmartWhite technology eliminates the confusion from selecting and purchasing printable media, and simplifies media inventory management for businesses that use both inkjet and thermal disc printing systems," said Mr. Adel Michael, co-founder and CEO of Falcon Technologies International (FTI). "Ideal for a wide range of applications from service bureaus and video/film production houses, to corporate offices, government agencies, houses of worship and medical institutions, FalconMedia Pro DVD-R, CD-R and Blu-ray Discs featuring SmartWhite Printable surfaces deliver the unsurpassed quality for which FTI is known."

FTI SmartWhite printable discs combine crisp, clear surface printing capabilities with exceptional recording and playback performance. The surfaces are designed to dry quickly and lock-in vivid color. The discs feature print-to-hub surfaces that enable printing all the way to each disc's hub for maximum visual impact.

Universal SmartWhite printable surface technology is available in combination with a host of other advanced FTI media technologies. With its innovative 24k gold reflective layer formulations, FTI has achieved an archival lifespan of more than 300 years for FalconMedia Pro Full Gold EP recordable CD-R media, and more than 100 years for FalconMedia Pro Gold EP recordable DVD-R media. A 24k gold reflective layer provides maximum resistance to degradation caused by environmental factors such as corrosion, a major cause of failure in standard media. Both solutions have been subjected to accelerated aging conditions, confirming the discs' archival life-spans.

FTI's Ultra Hard Coat (UHC) anti-scratch protection is the most reliable solution to protect mission-critical data against potential disc surface contaminants and mishandling. Applied to the media's polycarbonate layer during the manufacturing process, UHC technology dramatically increases the disc's scratch resistance and also helps fend off other contaminants such as smudges from fingerprints. Because most spills and other contaminants cannot readily bind to the UHC surface, the disc easily wipes clean. Performance is not impacted, and the data is protected.

FalconMedia Pro SmartWhite printable surface DVD-R, CD-R and Blu-ray Discs are available in Cake box 50 or 100 horizontal tape wrapped spindles.

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LiveTypeCentral.com Releases 8 new LiveType Theme Packs

LiveTypeCentral.com, a division of 12 Inch Design, LLC announced today that it has released 8 new Theme Packs for Apple's LiveType titling application. Featuring subjects such as Entertainment, Wedding, Worship, Sports, Tech/Medical, Election, Business, and Holidays, the new packs offer Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express editors new options when creating projects in LiveType. And as with other 12 Inch Design and LiveTypeCentral products, the content is royalty-free.

"Our first five multi-purpose LiveType Expansion Packs were and continue to be very popular with Final Cut editors," said Tony Stutterheim, President, 12 Inch Design. "With the Expansion Packs and the new Theme Packs installed in LiveType, Final Cut editors really have a quick and high-quality motion graphics solution at their fingertips from right within LiveType."

The LiveTypeCentral.com packs are the largest collection of native LiveType content available. And because the LiveTypeCentral.com Expansion Packs and Theme Packs are native LiveType content, the content works just like the content from Apple that is included with LiveType.

Each of the Theme Packs includes new Textures (video backgrounds), Objects (overlays and "key-able" animated items) and Templates for their specific theme. The LiveTypeCentral.com packs feature video backgrounds and other content from the acclaimed 12 Inch Design motion graphics library. Many of the packs also include pre-matted live-action people footage from the Post Holes, LLC royalty-free library.

LiveType is included with the current version of Apple's Final Cut Pro Studio and Final Cut Express HD 4. The LiveTypeCentral.com packs are compatible with LiveType version 2.0 and higher. Expansion packs are available in NTSC or PAL format, while the Theme Packs are only available in NTSC at this time (PAL is coming soon).


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Royalty Free Music Solution Rocks at Beatsuite.com!

Beatsuite.com music library, provider of royalty free music for video, film and media professionals, has announced the release of hundreds of new Rock music themes. The production music provider has recently announced the new collection of rock-based music tracks on its website Beatsuite.com this month.

The collection of hundreds of Guitar-based music tracks covers a range of styles and Genres such as rock music, pop rock, teen rock, sports rock, metal beats as well as blues and other Instrumental themes. The collection that has just been released will make a complimentary addition to the libraries 10,000+ music tracks already online.

Steve Bainbridge, Beatsuite.com CEO says: "We are always adding new music to the library, keeping up with current styles is important since the majority of video editors and filmmakers really know their music well and expect quality music elements for their productions.

"This new collection of Rock themes brings a range of high quality guitar based music tracks to bear with the aim of making media productions sound fantastic. Everyone wants their productions to sound professional as well as look good - that's why we have to provide the best possible production music content."

Beatsuite.com music library enables all kinds of video, film, web and media professionals to get access to high quality production music tracks in an instant. The site provides Preview, Purchase, Download technology and any music preview can be downloaded to your desktop free allowing users to try before buying. The music ranges from dance music styles to chill out, world and travel and almost all other kinds of music. The library even features a staggering choice of classical music from the masters Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Chopin amongst others.

For more information, click here.

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Boris FX Adds Seven New Transition Plug-ins to the Recently Released Final Effects Complete 5.0 Package

Boris FX, the leading developer of integrated effects technology for video and film, today announced that Final Effects Complete 5.0.1 for FxPlug (FEC 5 FxPlug) and Final Effects Complete 5.0.1 for AE (FEC 5 AE) are now available as free updates for FEC 5.0 customers.

The 5.0.1 updates add seven new transitions as well as provide important improvements to the existing 108 FEC transitions. FEC for FxPlug integrates seamlessly with Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Final Cut Express, and Apple Motion. FEC for AE supports Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Autodesk Combustion, and Eyeon Fusion. FEC for AE also plugs into Boris RED, Boris FX, and Boris Graffiti.

What's New in FEC 5.0.1

  • Seven new transition plug-ins, with presets: Blur Dissolve, Lens Wipe, Spherize Wipe, Griddler Wipe, Pin Wipe, Slant Wipe, and Rain Wipe.
  • New animation tuning capabilities have been added to all FEC transition plug-ins. These new parameters are responsible for fine-tuning the pace and timing of auto-animated transitions as well as remapping and holding the effect using Ease In / Ease Out sliders.

Existing FEC 5.0 customers can download the 5.01 update free of charge from the Boris FX website. A fully functioning 14-day free trial version is available here.

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Acoolsoft PPT2DVD 2.0 Released - Burn PowerPoint to DVD

Acoolsoft, which is absorbed in developing the best presentation authoring tools, today announced the release of PPT2DVD 2.0, an innovative yet economical solution to bring your PowerPoint presentation out of the monitors, but onto DVDs. Since its initial release on 2007, it has won tons of praises and received lots of Suggestions. After 5 months developing, it finally upgraded from 1.x to 2.0 with great improvements.

What's new in Acoolsoft PPT2DVD 2.0?
Acoolsoft PPT2DVD is the best tool to burn PowerPoint to DVD with excellent quality. It can retain all the animations, transitions, audio tracks, video clips, action buttons, internal links and other things you've added to the presentation, and generate DVD Menus to enable you to control the playback with a DVD remote. It is used by more and more teachers, sales people, presenters and even individuals who want to share or distribute their PowerPoint slide show more conveniently.

Here are the main upgrades which are genuinely useful and keep the Program standing on the top over the competitors:

1. Refreshing User Interface(Cool black and easy to understand)
2. Burn PowerPoint presentation to DVD disc with improved video quality
3. The conversion process is more stable and fast With higher conversion speed, PPT2DVD 2.0 saves 50% time for you.
4. Reasonable DVD menu editor. You know one of the best ways to enjoy your video on channel with others is the DVD format, and an important part of making a DVD experience enjoyable is incorporated the useful and understandable menu.PPT2DVD 2.0 will guide you to where you want!
5. Create eye-popping menus with free backgrounds, frames and buttons. Have you ever wondered how to create stunning, professional-looking interactive DVD menus to make your PowerPoint presentation more attractive, just like the ones on the DVDs you buy?

  • The new version offers you an enhanced range of menu materials including backgrounds, frames, buttons and text customizing, which will let you get creative when authoring your DVD PowerPoint presentation. Features include the following:
  • Amazing picture backgrounds
  • Flexible menu buttons
  • Professional - Looking frames
  • Customizing text
  • Flexible frame-capturing function to apply any captured frame as the thumbnail image on the menU

6. Support 12 PowerPoint files batch process at a time
7. Accurately synchronization of sound and animation
8. Fully compatible with Windows Vista, PowerPoint 2007
9. It can retain the video full screen play and loop setting if set in original PowerPoint presentation

What is Acoolsoft PPT2DVD?
Acoolsoft PPT2DVD does only one thing: Burn PowerPoint presentation to DVD with the best solution! Acoolsoft PPT2DVD is a powerful presentation tool which helps you burn PowerPoint presentations to DVD without any complicated technical skills. The wizard of PPT2DVD can walk you through the steps to create DVD presentation out the PowerPoint and enjoy your Presentation on TV with only a DVD player.

Why you need to burn PowerPoint presentations on DVD?

  • Showing presentations without the need of a computer
  • Create your own Toast DVD menu style
  • Distributing your slideshows to friends and colleagues on DVD Unattended
  • exhibition presentations on big screen
  • Giving your presentations a TV feel
  • Creating professional looking presentations Ensuring that everyone can view your presentations (no matter whether they have PowerPoint installed on their computers)
  • Protecting PowerPoint presentations from unauthorized editing

    Click here learn more details about Acoolsoft PPT2DVD 2.0. Download PPT2DVD 2.0: http://www.ppt-to-video.com/powerpoint-to-dvd-download.html

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