… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1566: What is a “Reference Monitor?”

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Perfection is impossible. Instead, ask better questions.

A TV test chart from before you were born – the days of black-and-white TV.

Topic $TipTopic

Wikipedia defines a reference video monitor as: “Broadcast reference monitors must be used for video compliance at television or television studio facilities, because they do not perform any video enhancements and try to produce as accurate an image as possible.

Alexis van Hurkman wrote an excellent blog on how to pick the right color grading monitor for your projects. While this was written in 2012, it is still worth reading.

My friends, we are making ourselves crazy. To a certain extent, this is necessary. We are professional colorists, and we require excellence in our display technologies. However, in the pursuit of excellence, we have been set to the task of achieving a pinnacle of perfection, while being given imperfect tools.

It seems to me that shopping for a color critical display is similar to being an audiophile—you can make yourself crazy searching for the Nth degree of perfection. Unlike audio technology, displays are subject to a concrete standard; Rec 601, Rec 709, or P3 dictating the gamut, and a gamma setting that depends on your specific application (more on that here), and a specific peak brightness measured in foot-lamberts (more on that here).

Speaking as an end user, display calibration is a frustrating field to follow. The frustration is thus: you’re told to adhere to a standard, and theoretically that’s cut and dried. Here are the numbers, make the display match the numbers. In practice, getting your display to match those numbers is a pretty challenging task, and different probes and software do this differently, and the results have minor deviations from one another, and then everyone gets to quibble about whose delta-E is smaller. (Crudely put, delta-E is the measured difference between what your display is showing, and what is should be showing, during a controlled calibration procedure.)

Smile… I am a huge fan of Alexis’ work. If you are trying to figure out what the important questions are to ask, this is a blog worth reading.

Here’s the link.


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Tip #1510: A Quick Guide to Steadicams

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Steadicam is a handy way to get professional stabilized footage.

Steadicam Aero (image courtesy of Tiffen.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Lewis MacGregor, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is a summary.

Once mastered, Steadicam is a handy way to get professional stabilized footage.

The world of Steadicams and stabilized footage has drastically changed over the last decade. At one point, the costly tool was reserved only for professional broadcasts, TV, and cinema. Yet, with new filmmakers born of the DSLR revolution yearning for something similar, we also saw the birth of inexpensive stabilization tools that followed the principle of Steadicams, but the results weren’t as successful. Further into the decade, we then saw the birth of the consumer-priced gimbal, and now everyone can obtain smooth footage.

Steadicams have seemingly reverted to professional productions only, whereas low-budget and new filmmakers opt towards a gimbal like the DJI Ronin-S.

A Steadicam is a camera rig that’s uniquely designed to stabilize camera shake. It mechanically isolates the camera from the operator’s movement, allowing for a smooth shot, even when moving over an asymmetrical surface. First created in the 1970s, the Steadicam quickly took Hollywood by storm as a better option for shooting smooth tracking shots.

A Steadicam, unlike a gimbal, primarily achieves smooth footage from a series of counterbalance weights and operator skill. Unlike a gimbal, which uses a motor to help achieve stable footage, the Steadicam’s primary tool is gravity. As such, the use of a Steadicam comes with a steep learning curve, and it’s also why a Steadicam operator is a designated position on a production. It requires skill and expertise to master.

This in-depth article continues with lots of Steadicam example videos and the following subjects:

  • Why Would I Need a Steadicam?
  • How Do I Set up a Steadicam?
  • How Much Do Steadicams Cost?
  • The Less Expensive Alternative
  • More Info on Steadicams (including a variety of links)

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… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1497: Edit Using 3-4 Monitors on an M1 Mac

Rick Dupea

Multi-monitor editing is possible even on “low-end” M1 systems.

Rick Dupea’s Final Cut Pro four monitor setup. (Courtesy: Rick Dupea.)

Topic $TipTopic

I’ve been running my Final Cut M1 edit station for two weeks now with four monitors. No it isn’t impossible, but it is a little convoluted and there are some glitches. For me the trade offs are worth it for the extra screen real estate.

In my system I am using the HDMI port to drive a large 1080P program monitor, and one USB3 port to drive a StarTech USB to Dual Display Port converter. This feeds two 27′ 4k monitors. The fourth monitor is actually my 2020 iPad running Sidecar on USB.

I have full access to monitor arrangement, placing the menu bar, and color calibration. The iPad is responsive with no lag. The only downsides so far have been that the HDMI monitor will forget its desktop picture on login, and the StarTech sometimes needs to be disconnected and reconnected to wake the 4k monitors from sleep.

I also was able to get a 4th HDMI monitor running off Airplay on a 3rd gen Apple TV, instead of Sidecar, but this would crash FCPX. All other apps seemed to work fine.


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Tip #1442: Blackmagic Releases 6K Pocket Camera

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

BMD’s latest camera is available immediately for US$2,495.

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro

Topic $TipTopic

Last week, Blackmagic Design released the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro. The following description is taken from the Blackmagic Design website (linked below).

The latest Pocket camera is “a new more powerful model that includes features for high end digital film. This new model includes a brighter 1,500 nit adjustable HDR touchscreen screen, built in ND filters, larger battery, plus support for an optional electronic viewfinder. This model also includes latest generation 5 color science, Super 35 HDR image sensor with 13 stops of dynamic range, dual native ISO of 25,600 and a popular EF lens mount.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro is available immediately from Blackmagic Design resellers worldwide for US$2,495.

Made from lightweight carbon fiber polycarbonate composite, the camera features a multifunction handgrip with all controls for recording, ISO, WB and shutter angle right at their fingertips. Because it’s an advanced digital film camera, the sensor is designed to reduce thermal noise allowing cleaner shadows and higher ISO. Plus the large 5 inch LCD makes it possible to get perfect focus at 4K and 6K resolutions.

Featuring a larger 6144 x 3456 Super 35 sensor and EF lens mount, also includes additional pro features such as built in 2, 4 and 6 stop ND filters, adjustable tilt HDR LCD with a bright 1500 nits that’s ideal for use in bright sunlight. It also includes two mini XLR audio inputs and a larger NP-F570 style battery.

Learn more.


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Tip #1413: Top 10 Digital Video Cameras

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

There are lots of camera options – here are some top choices for 2021.

The Fujifilm X-T4 camera.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is a summary.

Despite a pandemic slowing down industries across the world, the digital camera game is as robust and fierce as ever. In the past year, we’ve seen major technological breakthroughs, as well as plenty of big updates and completely new cameras added to the fold.

But, which one is right for you? PremiumBeat ranked their top ten favorites. Here’s the list:

  1. Fujifilm X-T4
  2. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K
  3. Nikon Z6 II
  4. Sony a7S III
  5. Panasonic Lumix S1H
  6. Canon EOS R5
  7. Sony Alpha 1
  8. Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K
  9. Canon C300 Mark III
  10. ARRI ALEXA Mini LF

This article provides additional specs, analysis and videos proving more details on each camera.


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… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1429: Blackmagic Announces New Gear

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

New gear targeted at higher-resolution video and live streaming.

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro

Topic $TipTopic

On Wednesday, Blackmagic Design announced several new products, including a new 6K camera. Here’s what they announced.

Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro ($2,495, available now): A new more powerful model that includes features for high end digital film. This new model includes a brighter 1,500 nit adjustable HDR touchscreen screen, built in ND filters, larger battery, plus support for an optional electronic viewfinder. This model also includes latest generation 5 color science, Super 35 HDR image sensor with 13 stops of dynamic range, dual native ISO of 25,600 and a popular EF lens mount.

Link: Technical Specifications

ATEM Mini Extreme ($995, available now) ATEM Mini Extreme ISO ($1,295, available now): ATEM Mini Extreme is a new massively larger model of our ATEM Mini live production switcher. This new model is our most advanced 1 M/E switcher that features 8 inputs, 4 ATEM Advanced Chroma Keyers, a total of 6 independent DVEs, 2 media players, 2 downstream keyers, 16 way multiview, 2 USB connections and multiple HDMI aux outputs. There is also a new ATEM Mini Extreme ISO model which includes all these powerful features plus a more powerful recording engine that can record all 8 inputs plus the program for a total of 9 streams of recording. Both new models include a broadcast quality streaming engine for live streaming to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more.

Link: Technical Specifications

Blackmagic Web Presenter HD ($495, available now): A self-contained streaming solution that includes a broadcast quality H.264 processor for direct streaming to platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more. The new Web Presenter HD is a compact design that includes a 12G-SDI input with down converter, so customers can connect to HD or Ultra HD equipment and stream in full 1080p video. Also included is a built in front panel with LCD and menus, USB webcam features, plus a unique monitoring output with audio meters, streaming status and full SDI and embedded audio technical details.

Link: Technical Specifications


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… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1300: A Hidden SSD Speed Boost

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

SSDs don’t have seek times or latency. This means MUCH faster storage speeds for multiple apps accessing storage at once.

Samsung T-5 SSD speed in isolation (top) and with BMD and AJA both running (bottom).

Topic $TipTopic

OK, I admit, I was playing. But I discovered something very intriguing about SSDs. Watch.

As we’ve learned over the last several tips, the speed of spinning hard drives are limited by seek times and latency (Tip #1287)

The speed of a network is limited by how the devices are connected to it (i.e. 100 Mb vs. 1 Gb vs. 10 Gb Ethernet), the number of users and the connected speed of the server.

But, direct-connected SSDs don’t have these limitations. Instead, speeds are controlled based upon the construction and connection protocol of the SSD (PCIe vs. NVMe – and – USB vs. Thunderbolt).

I plan to do this test in more detail in a few weeks, when I get a chance to play with a brand-new, high-performance NVMe SSD.

But, for this quick check, I connected a Samsung T-5 SSD to a 2019 Mac mini running Thunderbolt 3. While the Thunderbolt 3 protocol maxes out around 2500 MB/sec, the T-5 pegged the meter at 479 MB/s write and 526 MB/s read (see the top values in the screen shot).

HOWEVER, when I ran BOTH AJA System Test and Blackmagic Disk Speed Test at the same time, while the speed for each application dropped, the aggregate speed was FASTER than the speed for the isolated test.

NOTE: In my example, the single app read speed was about 525 MB/s. When both apps were running, the aggregate speed was about 660 MB/s!

What this means is that if you have multiple applications reading or writing to SSD storage at the same time – which is typical for many media apps – SSDs provide far less of a slow-down than spinning media because we can access all that storage directly, without waiting for platters to spin and heads to jump into place.

These tests are just preliminary – I’ll have more on this in a few weeks. But I think this is very, VERY interesting!


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Tip #1286: Optimize RAIDs for SSDs

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Optimizing RAIDs for SSD drives will improve performance.

(Image courtesy of OWC.)

Topic $TipTopic

RAIDs (Redundant Array of Independent Disks/Drives/Devices) consist of a number of hard drives or SSDs grouped together into a single unit so that they appear to the computer as a single device. Because there is more than one hard drive in a RAID, they offer greater performance and storage.

As we continue shifting storage from spinning media, which holds a LOT, to SSDs, which are FAR faster and more flexible, we need to rethink how RAIDs are configured. This configuration is done using “levels.” There are different levels of RAIDs, identified by numbers:

NOTE: Another benefit to SSD-based RAIDs, is that there is no latency. Because there is no mechanical movement, data can be retrieved much more quickly.

  • RAID 0 – Fast, inexpensive, no data redundancy. Requires a minimum of two hard drives inside the RAID enclosure. The more drives you add, the faster the performance, as performance and storage capacity are the sum of all drives in the RAID. However, if you lose one drive, you’ve lost ALL your data. Most often used when speed combined with low cost are paramount.
  • RAID 1 – Complete data redundancy. Generally only uses two hard drives inside the RAID enclosure. Often called “mirroring,” each drive is a complete copy of the other. Most often used for backing up servers or when on-set for DIT media work. Has the speed and capacity of the slowest single drive in the system.
  • RAID 3 – Medium-fast, data redundancy. Requires a minimum of three drives, as one drive is reserved solely for parity data. Should one drive die, your data is safe. This technology is no longer in common use, replaced by the faster performance of RAID 4 or 5 systems.
  • RAID 4 – Very-fast, data redundancy. Similar to RAID 3, requires a minimum of three drives, as one drive is reserved solely for parity data. Should one drive die, your data is safe. This is the preferred RAID format for SSD drives because of how the data is stored on the drives. When compared to a RAID 5, RAID 4 with SSDs is about 25% faster on reads.
  • RAID 5 – Very fast, data redundancy. Requires a minimum of three drives and shares parity data across all drives. Most often found with four or more drives inside. If one drive goes down, your data is safe. This is the preferred choice for RAIDs containing spinning media (traditional hard disks). Used for both locally-attached storage and servers.
  • RAID 6 – Fast, extra data redundancy. Requires a minimum of four drives. This version protects your data in the event two hard drives die at the same time. More expensive than RAID 5, but, generally, the same physical size. Like the RAID 5 this is most often used connected to just one computer. Not as fast as a RAID 5.
  • RAID 10 (or 1+0) – VERY fast, totally redundant. Requires a minimum of four drives, but is more often created by combining two matched RAID 0’s into a RAID 1. This provides the speed equivalent of a RAID 0, with the data redundancy of RAID 1. As RAIDs continue to drop in price, this can be a less-expensive way to create systems that rival the performance of a RAID 50.
  • RAID 50 – VERY fast, data redundancy. Generally the domain of very large RAIDs, this format combines the speed of RAID 0 with the redundancy of RAID 5 by dividing the RAID into sections, where you can lose a drive in each section without losing data. These systems generally cost more than $10,000 and contain at least twelve drives. Generally used in network and server situations where multiple users need to access the same data.
  • RAID 60 – VERY fast, extra data redundancy. Generally the domain of very large RAIDs, this format combines the speed of RAID 0 with the redundancy of RAID 6 by dividing the RAID into sections, where you can lose two drives in each section without losing data. These systems generally cost more than $10,000 and contain at least twelve drives. Generally used in network and server situations where multiple users need to access the same data.

EXTRA CREDIT

RAID 4 is the preferred option for SSD-based RAIDs.


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… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1287: What is “Latency?”

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Hard drives have latency – SSDs do not.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

Topic $TipTopic

Latency is directly tied to spinning storage media – the traditional hard drive – and determines how quickly you can access your data. Latency is the average time for the data being accessed to rotate into position under the drive’s magnetic head, after a completed seek.

As PC Tech Guide.com writes:

Disk RPM is a critical component of hard drive performance because it directly impacts the latency and the disk transfer rate. The faster the disk spins, the more data passes under the magnetic heads that read the data; the slower the RPM, the higher the mechanical latencies. Hard drives only spin at one constant speed, and for some time most fast EIDE hard disks spin at 5,400 rpm, while a fast SCSI drive is capable of 7,200 rpm.

Mechanical latencies, measured in milliseconds, include both seek time and rotational latency. Seek Time defines the amount of time it takes a hard drive’s read/write head to find the physical location of a piece of data on the disk. Latency is the average time for the sector being accessed to rotate into position under a head, after a completed seek. It is easily calculated from the spindle speed, being the time for half a rotation.

A drive’s average access time is the interval between the time a request for data is made by the system and the time the data is available from the drive. Access time includes the actual seek time, rotational latency, and command processing overhead time.

EXTRA CREDIT

What makes SSDs so fast is that they don’t spin or have magnetic drive heads. This means that terms like latency and seek time no longer apply. Here’s the full PCTechGuide.com article to learn more.


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… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1267: Top Filmmaking Gear for 2020

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Every list is subjective, share your favorites in the comments.

The Sony A7S III, without a lens.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Lewis McGregor, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is a summary.

Like most industries, the video gear market was inundated with new gear this year. As a filmmaker who often works either as a lone operator or in a skeleton crew, I’m looking for equipment that condenses tasks and increases my efficiency. The less I carry, the better. The gear I’ve highlighted in this list echoes that ethos. Ranked in no particular order, these include:

  • Sony A7S III – $3,498. The next iteration of the filmmaking variant of the Sony A7 line.
  • DJI RS2 – $849. The DJI RS 2 is the successor to the Ronin-S. It’s lighter by design, weighing just 2.36 pounds, but it can carry up to a ten-pound rig.
  • DaVinci Resolve Speed Editor – $295. Like the 2019 DaVinci Resolve Keyboard, the Speed Editor is a peripheral that gives the editor precise and efficient control of the timeline with dedicated function keys and a multi-operational search dial.
  • NVIDIA RTX 3000 series – $499/$699/$1,499. While it may seem initially perplexing to include a line of new GPUs for an end-of-year filmmaking equipment list, you have to acknowledge that with the increase in camera resolution and RAW recording, 2015 GPUs and CPUs aren’t cutting it anymore.
  • Aputure 600D – $1,890. A single chip LED fixture with a reflector. Like the 120D and 300D, the 600D also packs a punch, but it hits a lot harder.
  • Nova P300C – $1,699. What makes this light specifically unique and highly anticipated is that it’s an RGBWW light. That means it can just about integrate into any ambient light situation, match other light fixtures, or just for creative expression, switch to the millions of colors found with the RGB wheel.
  • Canon EOS C70 – $5,499. This camera is something of a hybrid of the new EOS R line and their cine camera line.
  • Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K – $9,995. In 2020, we were treated to the first 12K camera, with the URSA Mini Pro 12K. The body largely remains the same design as the other readily available models. However, the internal electronics of the 12K have been replaced. There’s a new sensor, a new film curve, new color science, and a whole new host of recording features.
  • Fuji XF 50mm F/1.0 – $1,499. The Fuji F/1.0 is an unprecedented entry from Fuji as it marks the arrival of the fastest autofocus lens for mirrorless cameras.

EXTRA CREDIT

The article, linked at the top, has videos demoing all this gear, as well as more specs and details.


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