Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

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Lighting is the Key!

January 1, 2016

In the world of media production (unless a person is dealing strictly with audio) lighting is key. While the amount of light used can set a different tone for the scene you are filming or photographing it all basically comes down to the fact that you need a measure of light to start. Still and video cameras have improved over the last decade being able to capture usable (if not clean) images even in low light situations. I often come across astounding stats about the ability of certain cameras to captures “more latitude” or “greater dynamic range” and the price point of these cameras are ever dropping well past the $10k or even $5k price point. But you still need to start off with some light and sometimes I’ve found it downright difficult to get the right amount of light in the right places. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Back in the Mix

October 14, 2014

My church recently (past year) switched over from an analog main console to a digital mixer. There are many benefits to having a digital mixer from the on-board processing to the ability to save and recall session or even working on sessions off-line (on a computer away from the sanctuary) and uploading it prior to a service. However, I believe the main benefit of having a digital Front of House (FoH) mixer is the ability to record each track individually. While that may not matter very much for a two track recording of the Pastor’s sermon tge ability to record separate tracks definitely matters during a 40 piece concert or even during song service which uses an 8 member praise team and 12 input band. Read the rest of this entry ?

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4K for the Prosumer

May 19, 2014

When I first heard about the Sony 4K camera at a consumer level price I knew I wanted to take it for a spin. Coming in at under $2200 I really had high hopes for the camera especially having recently used a Canon XA20 that is currently selling at around the same price. I really enjoyed the XA20 and felt that if Sony could come close to the look and feel of the the Canon while adding 4k it would have a real winner on its hand. And while the fact that the Sony FDR-AX100 could record at Ultra HD 3840×2160 is a major selling point what jumped out at me was the 1″ EXMOR R CMOS sensor that it is using. That size sensor should mean a more narrow depth of field as well as better recording in low light.

I rented the camera from Lensrentals.com, used it to record my interview and then took it out to my usual spot to run it through a few tests. Here is the video of those tests:

 

I like the camera but the ability to shoot 4k doesn’t make up for a few deficiencies on the AX100. I was not fond of the touchscreen as it seems way too small for all the menu information that is displayed. Often times it took a few tries for me to select the right option as my fingers would brush against other menu items. It is fortunate that many buttons are made available on the camera body so the user may not have to use the touchscreen for everything. Lack of XLR input should not be counted as a real negative since this is not billed as a professional model like the Sony PXW-Z100. Ergonomically the camera felt to small for my hands and I was hoping for a little more weight and perhaps a handle. I had a problem accessing the Manual Focus button because of where it was placed.

Visually the camera records very good quality video. As you have seen from the clips I shot the camera will need a little gamma correction and some contrast in post but there is plenty of detail available to work with. When I put up my interview video you will be able to see how well the 1″ sensor shoots indoors. The CMOS sensor, however, has a pronounced problem with Rolling Shutter so fast panning is out of the questions unless don’t mind fixing the issue in post. (Speaking of which, I’m going to test out This Software to see how well it works. Look for a review soon!)

In the same $1900 – $2200  price range there are quite a few non-4K options available that include handles, XLR inputs and a plethora of buttons along with their touchscreens. Why would I choose the AX100 over the other options? I’m not certain I would as I’m not certain 4K ultra HD is worth it yet. One of the reason to shoot in 4K now would be the ability to apply zooming and panning when down converting to 1080p but I notice quite a bit of artifact when I tried that (clips coming soon).

Some additional things to note:

  1. You can only shoot 4k if you have an SDXC card; with an SDHC card you are limited to 1080p. I’m very fortunate that my last purchase was a 64GB SDXC card to that I could get the most out of the AX100. It would have been a shame if I couldn’t test it out completely.
  2. The auto focus is slow. Really slow and switching to manual in a run-n-gun situation is a little awkward because of the MF button placement.
  3. I didn’t do enough 4K low light recording. It would have been easy to setup a candle after it got dark outside and see how well the camera did in low light.

For $2000 I think the camera is good, though not great. I was not as impressed with it as I was with the XA20 but I could definitely see how it could be useful in quite a few spots.

 

BTW – I love doing hardware reviews. If there are any products that you suggest I take a look at please let me know.

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Digital Age

August 25, 2013

The move to digital audio mixing has come along in a trickle, to say the least. Not that digital mixers haven’t been available for over 2 decades but it has taken a while for them to be at a price point that people can accept. There was also the issue of fear about the complexity of installation and operation that comes with a digital board. I think PreSonus has done a great job of taking care of both of those issues with their line of digital mixing consoles. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Audio Engineering

August 7, 2013

It’s been a long time since I spoken on any Audio Engineering or consultation that I have done since my installation in a church in West Virginia but Audio is still a good part of my daily life especially when shooting with a DSLR. Audio is still considered to be as important if not more important than video.With that in mind I have been looking at upgrading my daily audio gear from a Zoom H1 to something a little more robust. After I narrowed my choices by price and features I ended up comparing the Zoom H4n and the Tascam DR-40. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Magic Lantern… Where have you been all my life???

June 18, 2013

As I am researching a new video camera to add to my arsenal (never giving up my DSLR but it is *NOT* great in every situation) I came across the idea of overwriting my Canon firmware on my 60D with a third party firmware that is supposed to add functionality. I had run CHDK on my older Canon Powershot SX20 before but that booted off of the SD card and wasn’t a true firmware overwrite.

For those of you not familiar with firmware it can be described as the brains behind the hardware in your equipment; it translates your commands, instructions and desires to the hardware to accomplish what you want the device to do. Many people think the processor is the brains of a device, but without firmware (or if you have corrupt firmware) you have a “brick”, i.e. a useless hunk of metal. Most devices have a process to reset damaged firmware but the process is usually harder to accomplish than the upgrade that went so wrong for you. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Sigma 10-20mm EF-S Lens

May 24, 2013

This past weekend I was hired to shoot an interview and photograph an interior so an architectural firm. Since I imagined a great big expansive setting I wanted to get a really wide angle lens but not an 8mm fisheye which would give a distorted view. After pursuing the selection on LensRental.com (yes, I mention them quite often; no they don’t pay me a dime or give me any freebies) and reading a few reviews I decided on the Sigma 10-20MM f/3.5 lens. I was not disappointed… Read the rest of this entry ?