Jun 2012

The new Sony PMW 200

It’s pretty bitchin’


People have been complaining that they aren't putting pro codecs in these awesome cameras they're coming out with - like the FS100 and 700.  Why a so-so AVCHD onboard codec, and not an established pro codec like XDCAM?  Even the EX1 and EX3 are XDCAM EX 4:2:0 at 35 Mbps.  This little unit is XDCAM 4:2:2 at 50 Mbps!  Cool!

Again, though, I would like to see what this (new, I think) sensor looks like.  Assuming it doesn't suck, the camera looks like a sure-thing-type good investment. TC in/out, Genlock in/out, SDI out…. it will likely get a lot of use in multi cam shoots due to the connectivity alone.

The big question is, "Where is the PMW-EX5?".  Many expect that to be the next thing to drop.


FCPX - From the Trenches

I understand why people who made their living day in/out with FCP were up in arms - FCPX was missing fundamental features for many of those people.  BUT, it is yet another Jobs game-changer that is going to take many people a while to catch up with.  In its current form it's more than usable by a lot of people, and when the folks who make peripherals for it catch up with the code-writing, it will work for almost everybody.  

One thing that's still not quite there is external monitoring - Matrox recently released a beta driver for their monitor boxes (like the MXO Mini I have) which caused a lot of excitement, only to find it was barely beta.  Nowhere near functional.  But I think they were trying to be first, and then use that awareness and customer feedback to (hopefully) get a functional driver going.  Don't know when that will be.

The other issue many have had with it is that it's a different editing paradigm - which requires relearning fundamental stuff.  Just when you'd figured out how you like to work with the old FCP!  But it really is incredibly fast.  When you work on it for a while and the switch back to cutting in Legacy, it seems so old-fashioned and fussy.  WAY too many clicks and fine movements required in Legacy vs. X to accomplish a given task.  I still have a ways to go to internalize the FCPX way of editing, but it's what I'm going with because I think it's fundamentally better in ways that matter to me.  If I was cutting TV shows for broadcast for a living, it currently wouldn't work for me.  But I don't, so…

I do actually have to decide whether to use 7 or X for the next thing I'm shooting.  It's going to DVD, so it will have to be properly monitored on an NTSC display.  I've got that sorted with 7 and Color (if needed) which actually isn't very easy or elegant.  But unless Matrox gets a functional driver out in the next month, I'm not sure if I'll use X for this one.  On the other hand, I would rather invest the time in getting that much further with learning FCPX.  The color correction with inside/outside mattes is quite powerful, it has beautiful scopes, and it now has an awesome keyer built in.  I mean, I cut a job on FCPX the week it came out, and the clients loved it.  It was for computers and web, so the color didn't have to conform to broadcast or NTSC standards - it just had to look good on computers.

UPDATE: (2 months later)

I’m still learning - using it is pretty much the only way (other than tutorials) to get a handle on how it works.  It's just completely different.  From muscle memory, you keep trying to do stuff like you have for years, and it doesn't work that way.  It's WAY easier, VERY powerful and MUCH faster.  But you have to unlearn a lot of commands as well as the whole way of thinking about how an NLE edit is constructed and structured.  

Just today I was searching for a way to "lock" the audio "track" (there's that "old thinking" again) on a concrete industrial piece I'm doing (a voiceover bed that I'm editing the images to). You don’t do that any more.  It can be frustrating because doing stuff you've always done causes weird stuff to happen that is often not what you wanted.  Pisses you off.  But today I suddenly jumped up a level in my grasp of the paradigm.  Suddenly several things which had been frustrating me became forehead-smacking, oh-my-gawd-this-is-awesome AND so much easier than I thought!  Changing the timing and arrangement of clips, in and out points, etc. is SO fast and easy, ONCE you start to "get it".  But here I am, a year later, just starting to get it.  You can do a huge range of things by holding down a modifier key while dragging stuff around. Stuff that took LOTS more clicking around and changes of mode in 7.

I think the other thing that seemed like a betrayal with FCPX was that with FCStudio, you had this whole suite of stuff that worked together (like Adobe CS), and it seemed as if that was being taken away.  But I don't think that's really the case.  They're moving toward it being integrated in one program rather than having to round-trip between multiple apps.  It's a ways from there yet, but FCPX has a lot more built-in capability in terms of keying, titling, EFX, etc. than FCP7.  And did I mention it's REALLY FAST and CHEAP?

Sony PMW 100

It's a spiff unit - but a pretty small chip.


Might be a good replacement for the Panasonic AX-100 - level stuff.  Would like to go HD with all clients, but not for free!

One thing to pay attention to on these new cameras is that some are 3-chip and some are 1.  Traditionally that was how you could tell a pro camera from a consumer.  Like the EX1 is (3) 1/2" chips.  Stuff like the Sony FS100/700/F3, etc. are competing with large DSLRs, so they are 1 LARGE chip.  The PMW 100 is (1) slightly-larger-than ⅓” chip (1/2.9"), so I dunno how that will perform.  Certainly they're making great strides in that area.  And the onboard 50Mbps XDCAM recording capability is cool - wouldn't necessarily need an outboard recorder.  It'll be interesting to see some footage from it.

Sony vs. Blackmagic

I mis-wrote when I said the BMCC is future-4k -- it's the Sony FS-700 that will have that capability.  The BM is a 2.5k sensor.

Phillip Bloom reviews the Sony:


Well really kinda apples and oranges here, they're both nice but different.  One thing that seems to get lost in the Blackmagic deal is that despite being a (future) 4k-capable imager, the chip is WAY smaller than the Sony.  BOTH need lenses and other expensive add-ons.  On the plus side of the BM vs. Sony is the built-in SSD recorder, includes Resolve AND Ultrascopes (each worth about a grand) though you pretty much need a Thunderbolt-capable computer to go with it.  I would say the Sony is a more "traditional" camera (in a good way) from the functionality point of view.  Plus it does awesome slo-mo.  I would guess that it will generally make better images than the BM, due to the imager - but in order to be apple-to-apples there, the Sony requires an outboard recorder like the Atomos Samurai, etc.

What I mean by that is that the BM has an onboard hard drive recorder that can potentially record in any format - and on the high end natively records 12 bit RAW files.  The Sony's internal recorder is NXCAM AVCHD compressed files.  As with my EX1, which records XDCAM EX at 35mbps - you have to go out the SDI spigot to get a 4:2:2 uncompressed signal, and to record that properly you need an external recorder.  The Samurai records ProRes in three flavors, I typically use the middle ProRes422 at 150mbps.

So if you wanted to truly compare the outputs of the BM and 700 apples-to-apples, you would need to record the Sony to a high res external recorder.  (Or set the BM to record compressed) So - another point for the BM.  $3k INCLUDING internal RAW recording capability AND full Resolve AND Ultra Scopes.  That would be a deal at $5 or $6K.  The Sony is $8k without lens (or external recorder, or Resolve or scopes).

This is not to say that the Sony's internal AVCHD files would not be fine for most stuff.  A drive in my Samurai locked up on a recent shoot, and so all I had was the XDCAM on the cards in the camera as backup.  Bummed me out, but the clients can't tell.  And I sure was glad I had the backup rather than having to re-shoot a half day.

So it's a lot to sort out.  I'm having this issue with a lot of items these days - not just what do they do, but what don't they do - and what's the best for my particular needs?