Padcaster VERSE: a mobile production studio in a case

Padcaster VERSE

The Padcaster VERSE is not absolutely new, but the next step on the original Padcaster, created to transform an iPad into an all-in-one mobile production studio. The VERSE will work with multiple systems, meaning if you change from your iPhone to an Android tablet you can still use the same Padcaster VERSE.

Josh Apter is the name behind the Padcaster projects. Josh Apter is an award-winning writer, director, and editor who has worked in all areas of filmmaking. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he attended NYU’s Graduate Film Program where his film, “The 53rd Calypso,” was honored with the Martin Scorsese Award for achievement in directing. The film, which stars Edward Norton, received numerous awards for directing, editing and cinematography at film festivals across the country.

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In 2012, Josh developed and founded The Padcaster, a rugged case that transforms the iPad into a mobile production studio. With an aluminum frame and flexible insert, on-the-go filmmakers can add all the accessories they need, mount The Padcaster to a tripod or monopod, then shoot, edit and upload high-quality footage directly from the iPad. The line has since grown to include a Padcaster for the iPad Air, iPad Mini and iPad Pro 9.7. Now comes the VERSE.

The VERSE is about ready to go into production, so Josh turned to Kickstarter, where the initial Padcaster Mini was funded in 2012. He says that “Padcaster is in the final stage of development for Padcaster VERSE, the first mobile-media case built to fit iPhone, Android or your favorite tablet, too. We need your help to finalize the production of this unique tool and make it available for filmmakers, video bloggers, mobile journalists, photographers, drone pilots, students, teachers, coaches and content creators everywhere!”.

Things look good for the VERSE, as close to 200 backers pledged $24,874 from the $25,000 goal, and the campaign still has 19 days to go. The Padcaster VERSE, continues Josh, works with any phone of any make and is built to last through years of your device’s upgrades and improvements. It’s a mobile-media case looking for a long-term commitment.

Padcaster VERSE

Padcaster VERSE is a rugged polycarbonate case that shares the same core design elements of the flagship original Padcaster line. The VERSE includes twelve 1/4 -20 threads and five integrated cold shoe slots around its frame to provide a total of seventeen easy-to-use, stable mounting points for media accessories including lights, microphones, teleprompters and more. The center of the case houses a universal bracket that’s compatible with any phone or tablet – Apple or Android – up to 5.31 inches in width, the size of an iPad mini.

Accoding to Josh Apter, “while the original Padcaster, and the solutions created for the iPad family, continue to be amazing sellers, the question we get more than any other is ‘when are you making a case for the iPhone?’ We wanted to go a step further and build a case that not only fits any iPhone model, but all video-capable smartphones. To top it off, Padcaster VERSE also fits almost any small tablet, too. This sturdy, durable yet lightweight solution is compact enough to travel anywhere.”

If all goes according to plan, the Padcaster VERSE will be delivered May 2016, first to the Kickstarter supporters.

Blackmagic Talks To PVC About The New URSA Studio Viewfinder: NAB 2016

At NAB 2016, Blackmagic announced the new URSA Studio Viewfinder, a 7″ studio viewfinder with variable tension mounting points, tally, external controls and more turning the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K and 4K cameras into studio cameras. Think Blackmagic Studio Camera software in the URSA Minis plus a great professional viewfinder. Once you add a B4 mount lens with lens controls you’ll have a fully functioning studio camera, only better. But, we not only talk about the new Studio Viewfinder. We also talk about the new User Interface in the URSA Minis as well as Blackmagic dropping “July” shipping dates.

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StudioWhy should Blackmagic add features to the URSA Minis’ to be more like a live production camera? Well, by adding those features the URSA Mini 4K and 4.6K become more flexible. These cameras will fit equally in a digital cinema shoot as a live production shoot. For owners/operators it means being able to use the cameras in more situations, which is always nice. For production companies it means you could have a camera crew arrive early, for a game of the week football game, and have the crew shoot bumps shots for the broadcast. Afterwards, they can then position their cameras for live shot duties.

What is the URSA Studio Viewfinder? It is a large 7″ high resolution screen which seems like a great way for camera operators, working on live events, to stand behind the camera and capture the action for as long as needed. The all metal design is durable and features the highest quality variable tension mounting points available, as well as an articulated arm so the viewfinder can be raised, lowered, moved forward and backward. These mounting points can be set for the perfect amount of resistance so shooters can pan and tilt the viewfinder to whatever position they need.

In the end, this means the 4.6K URSA Mini and 4K URSA Mini will be cameras capable of fitting into more situations. The more situations a camera does well in, the more satisfied owner/operators will be in their camera. Personally, I can’t wait to see production companies take advantage of a 15 Stop dynamic range camera, with great color science, for all of their live events.

360o Video Report #8 – Chris Bobotis from Mettle explaining their new VR 360o plugin for Adobe CC

Chris Bobotis , Owner and Creative Director at Mettle explains their incredible VR 360 plug-in for Adobe Creative Cloud.

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(Don’t forget to watch the 360? video using the Google Chrome browser at the highest resolution you can – ideally 4K 2160s. If it doesn’t run smoothly at 2160s come down to 1440s or 1080HD. Click your mouse on the video and drag left and right and up and down to see the scene in 360o spherical.)

Don’t forget to read my primer article on how to watch 360o videos if you don’t already know.

Cheers,

Neil

ON1 Photo RAW: a new assault to the Lightroom fortress

ON1 Photo RAW

Since Adobe opted for the subscription mode, many users have looked for alternatives. Serif presented one with their Affinity Photo for Mac and soon available for Windows, now ON1, that already offers ON1 Photo, announces ON1 Photo RAW.

ON1 Photo RAW is built, according to ON1, with modern code optimized for today’s super-megapixel cameras and high-performance computer graphics systems, Photo RAW will be the world’s fastest, most flexible, and easiest-to-use RAW processor and photo editor on the market when it is released this Fall, says ON1.

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The documentation available about the program reminds us that the current class of RAW-based photo editors all have their heritage from the early days of digital photography, when most digital cameras had less than 10 megapixels, and computer processing power was a fraction of that found in modern PCs. Lightroom, which sometimes seems to follow an erratic development pattern, is a good example, as it still keeps much of the logic of the initial version.

When used with today’s popular 42- and 50-megapixel cameras, existing programs can often take seconds to render small portions of a RAW image and perform adjustments. Several years in the making, Photo RAW, with its modern RAW processing engine, is tuned for today’s sensors and graphics chips. It will open 50-megapixel images in a fraction of a second on a standard PC or Mac, and perform edits in real-time, without slider lag or frustrating waits for redraw. You’ll have to contribute, though, with a machine powerful enough for the program to run.

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If you’ve ever tried ON1 Photo 10, you’ll have a taste of what the company means. In fact, ON1 Photo RAW will build on what ON1 Photo 10 offers and take you further. Developed over the last several years, ON1 Photo RAW is built around ON1 Browse, the company’s lightning-fast photo browser, and will not require photographers to import and catalog their photos. That’s one key aspect that many users appreciate.

I’ve stopped using Lightroom – because that’s the program we’re talking about – a couple of years ago, exactly because of the need to import everything into the program. I used the program since early Beta days, and wrote about it’s revolutionary approach on two of my books, but as years passed I grew tired of some of its aspects and finally stopped using it. I did it not so much for me, but because when I talk to people they always complain about how confusing Import is and also how they lose track of their files while using Lightroom. I am aware most of the problems are due to the way people move their folders around, but as there is no way around, I started telling people to look for alternatives, as I did.

Years ago, when people had their files all in a computer drive and maybe on an external drive, it was easier to deal with Lightroom, but these days, when we’re told to go mobile and have files in multiple places, from the Cloud to a tablet and computer, the way Lightroom works demands some rules… that most people tend to forget. So, to prevent disaster, it is better to use a DAM program that deals with the exact place where files are all the time. Like Adobe Bridge, for example. That’s what I use, together with ACR.

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Now, programs like ON1 Photo 10, offer an alternative, through their Browse module. It’s that same efficiency that ON1 Photo RAW will offer. No need to go through the painful and time-consuming process of importing and cataloging required before editing can begin. What I find amusing regarding this aspect is to see, on the video about the feature, Matt Kloskowski discusss the advantages of ON1 Photo RAW. He says that “most of the popular RAW photo editors make photographers import and catalog their photos first, and bounce between multiple apps for editing and work within closed systems. But with ON1 Photo RAW, we’ll finally get a lighting fast photo browser, and a killer RAW processor without the painful import process. Wait until you see the new non-destructive ON1 Effects, something I’ve been wanting for years. I am personally involved with the development of ON1 Photo RAW and super excited with our progress. I hope everyone will get involved in our discussions leading up the the release, so please join me on the blog.”

It amuses me to see that I am not alone. Matt Kloskowski has a long history with Lightroom, has been, one could say, an “evangelist” for the program, but for sometime now he has written about his concerns with the Import feature of Lightroom and how it needs to change. Well, it seems Matt Kloskowski has changed – as Lightroom doesn’t – because he is deeply involved with the project of ON1.

ON1 Photo RAW

As ON1 Browse is an integral part of Photo RAW, the program will offer quick and easy ways to tag, rate, make color and tone adjustments, or add effects to photos. Without catalogs, professionals will be able to make adjustments to photos and fellow colleagues can access and edit where they left off. This combination of a fast photo browser with instantaneous RAW processing will deliver a fluid, streamlined workflow to process any amount of photos all at once. Select one or 101 photos, make a few develop adjustments and all of the photos update automatically in real time. That’s, what ON1 promises to deliver.

It should be noted that ON1 Photo RAW will continue to work seamlessly as a plug-in for Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and Corel; a standalone host app for Google Nik Collection and other photo editors, as usual for ON1 programs, so photographers with established workflows can continue using what they’re familiar with, but still try the functions of ON1 Photo RAW. But the company stresses that On1 Photo RAW, as ON1 Photo 10 now, will work as a standalone product. It will include built-in layers, brushes, and advanced masking tools, making it a full RAW processor and complete photo editor in a single app. And, unlike any other photo app, Photo RAW will work the way you want, and where you want.

It’s a rather seductive idea, I must say. ON1 says that common file formats–including JPEG, TIF, PSD, PSB, PND, and DNG–will be supported and will benefit from the speed and performance of the app, and that the program will include support for over 800 cameras. If ON1 keeps the promise and updates the number of cameras supported, I might simply buy in. At the moment and until May 6, ON1 has a special offer, with a price of $89.99 that will give you a version of ON1 Photo 10.5 right now, to play with, and the ON1 Photo RAW when it comes out.

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ON1 Photo RAW’s instruction-based, non-destructive workflow will also, says ON1, surpass today’s RAW processors in other key ways. In addition to customary re-editable adjustments such as exposure, contrast, color, shadows and highlights, Photo RAW will also offer non-destructive effects and portrait retouching, something not present in any photo editor on the market. The complex filters found in ON1 Effects and ON1 Portrait–including Lens Blur, Skin Retouching, Dynamic Contrast, HDR Look and many more–are all available in Photo RAW’s non-destructive workflow. The controls found throughout ON1 Photo RAW will also respond in real-time by leveraging modern video cards, using the latest versions of OpenGL and OpenCL.

ON1 Photo RAW will be available this fall. ON 1 indicates that you can pre-order ON1 Photo RAW today by becoming an ON1 Plus Pro Member at $149.99/yr. Plus Pro members receive a perpetual license for all ON1 apps (not a subscription) and will be the first to receive the app once it becomes available. Owners of previous versions of ON1 Photo will have the option to upgrade to ON1 Photo RAW. The upgrade price will be determined at a later date. There will be special pricing for Photo 10 purchasers. Customers will be notified over the course of the next several months providing their upgrade information.

ON1 Photo RAW will be available, for Mac and Windows, next Fall, at which time we will probably have Affinity Photo software version for Windows. I am curious to see how the market reacts, and also if Lightroom wakes from the relative lethargy it seems to have adopted, and changes. We all could gain from that.

EOS 5DS R: Canon forgot the Dual Pixel AF

EOS 5DS/S R: Canon forgot the Dual Pixel AF

Since the introduction of Dual Pixel AF in the EOS 70D, Canon as extended its use to other models, from the EOS 7D Mark II to the EOS-1D X Mark II or the new EOS 80D. The EOS 5D Mark IV, to be launched this year, will also have Dual Pixel AF. Why did they keep it out of the EOS 5DS/S R?

When recently I had the chance to try the EOS 5D SR, I used it from a photographer’s perspective and did not bother much with the video aspects of the camera, as Canon is the first to say this model is not meant for video. Still, video is there in case a photographer needs it. It’s just a pity that Canon did not use Dual Pixel AF to make it REALLY work for photographers.

Maybe it all comes down to the fact that the EOS 5DS R has a sensor with 50 million pixels. Maybe, and maybe Canon can correct me if I am wrong, it was difficult to get those pixels to do both the image capture and AF like Dual Pixel AF systems do. But from where I see it, if it is possible, Canon made a mistake not to introduce Dual Pixel AF (which they now call DAF), exactly because the EOS 5DS R (and the twin sister, EOS 5DS) are both designed for photographers. And photographers do have a hard time to focus manually in video, as they have been used, for decades, to use autofocus.

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I talk from experience. For decades I used manual focus, and it took me quite a few models from Canon AF cameras – up to the EOS 10, in fact – to move from my FD lenses to the EOS system… not long after I had bought a nice T90 which was shelved after only a few rolls of film. I was hooked on AF, because being blind as a bat, the AF system opened new doors for me. Although, sometimes, I will use manual to adjust focus, being able to rely on AF was a game-changer.

I think photographers in general will be like me. So, when faced with video, the first sad thing we discover, with DSLRs, is that they usually are not very good at focusing. Video professionals using DSLRs have, apparently, no problems, as they all know how to focus-pull. We don’t. No matter how much I try, I can not get perfect results.

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Canon is aware of the problem. The information provided about AF with DSLRs states that “for a large part of the time, autofocus is not as useful for movie shooting as it first appears. When shooting movies, manual focus can appear more natural and is therefore easier to watch for a viewer” and add that “all EOS cameras that feature an EOS Movie mode have had a form of autofocus that works in Movie mode, however their method of focusing meant that the autofocus is neither smooth nor natural during recording”.

Canon tried to solve that problem introducing their Hybrid AF mode for video, first on the EOS 650D/Rebel T4i, in 2012. When used with a STM lens, a type of lens Canon designed especially for video, the camera offers a better experience in terms of AF. Hybrid CMOS AF is a combination of two previous AF technologies, phase detection as used in normal AF shooting, and contrast detection as used in previous versions of Live View or EOS Movie focusing.

To make the system work, the phase detection pixels are embedded within the main imaging CMOS sensor. This way they can measure the subject distance from the focal plane very quickly, while the contrast AF can check for exact focus very accurately. This helps to shortcut the normal hunting in- and out-of-focus that is common with a contrast AF system by starting the search for perfect focus much closer to the final AF setting.

Hybrid AF achieved a new level of sophistication with the Canon EOS 100D/Rebel SL1 DSLR, from 2013, which introduced Hybrid CMOS AF II. The new system offers AF across a wider area of the frame than Hybrid CMOS AF, extending out to approximately 80% of the shooting area both horizontally and vertically.

Canon EOS 80D

The next step in video autofocus sophistication came with the EOS 70D, from 2013, which introduced Dual Pixel CMOS AF, subsequently named Dual Pixel AF, also DPAF and more recently, by Canon, presented under the letters DAF. Dual Pixel AF has been heralded as a true revolution in terms of focus in video when it comes to DSLRs.

According to Canon, the performance of the system is similar to that found in more traditional video cameras, like the Canon Legria range. The camera uses a new style of CMOS sensor where all the pixels on the sensor are used not only to form the image, but also to perform phase-difference autofocus. This is achieved by each pixel on the sensor being composed of two independent photodiodes, both of which carry out both imaging and autofocus roles.

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With this new sensor, autofocus in Live View and EOS Movie shooting feels more natural and the tracking AF performance is greatly improved in speed but also in smoothness compared to previous systems. Compared to the Hybrid CMOS AF II, Dual Pixel CMOS AF performs around 30% faster, although, according to Canon, both systems offer, in terms of coverage, an AF area in Live View or EOS Movie shooting equivalent to approximately 80% of the frame both horizontally and vertically, providing a wide area coverage.

Although many consider that these AF systems are for amateurs, the truth is that Canon has implemented the Dual Pixel AF system, which is getting even better – in many of their Cinema EOS line of professional cameras, and even retrofitted some models already launched to use the system. It’s an indication of the potential of the technology, which Canon is now extending, apparently, to the next version of their EOS 5D family of DSLRs – the EOS 5D Mark IV – and introducing to models in the EOS XX series and an eventual update to the EOS 7D Mark II. As of now, the Hybrid AF II system is being used in entry level DSLRs (EOS XXX), and nothing suggests that Canon will adopt Dual Pixel AF for all their cameras.

EOS 5DS/S R: Canon forgot the Dual Pixel AF

Still, on a model like the EOS 5DS R, it would make sense, because it would allow photographers to do justice to the millions of pixels present in the sensor. I write this after trying the camera at a unique event, in Lisbon, an amateur church choir created as a means to get money to repair the roof of one of Lisbon’s most fantastic small churches: Saint Christopher’s Church.

The church of Saint Christopher, built in the 17th century, has survived the 1755 earthquake in Lisbon but may not survive the 21st century. In its gilded interior 36 canvases from Bento Coelho da Silveira stand out (1617-1708), yet the building needs urgent repairs. The total sum necessary for the restoration of the church was set in one million and two hundred thousand euros. The sum needed for the restoration of the canvases was set around three hundred thousand euros and three hundred and fifty thousand euros.

The amateur choir, formed by volunteers, some with no experience in singing, created a unique show chanting the musicality of religious songs of different faiths that can be found in Lisbon. The mix of original themes that aim to draw in space the essence and intent of each prayer resulted in a unique show that showed the acoustic potential of the space. This is probably one of the most interesting aspects of the video I edited to show here, especially as it was captured with the built-in microphone of the EOS 5DS R.

EOS 5DS/S R: Canon forgot the Dual Pixel AF

The characteristics of the space surely helped to get the final sound in camera, and while it may not sound very professional, it does give enough quality for any “run & gun” coverage similar to the one done here. Just so readers get one idea of the gear used, photographs were taken with 17-40mm and 100mm macro lenses and the video was filmed with a 100mm macro lens I had with me that day. No tripod or even a monopod, I stood up against a wall of the church and filmed everything holding the camera. Could not move from there as the place was packed with people. The magic of the human voice attracted a crowd!

Regarding sound, I must confess I am amazed, because it shows Canon has worked to get better results from the built-in microphone. Earlier models would not offer this quality. I am curious to see how the EOS 80D performs in terms of sound, as a lot of things have changed on the EOS XX segment, and I intend to check the newer models as they become available. Again, this does not substitute a proper external recording, or a real microphone, but for someone that does not do video consistently, it is good to know the built-in microphone can save you. It surely did here.

I can not say the same about autofocus. Although the hunting of the camera’s AF does looks interesting in the context of a dark space like a church and this specific event, the system is not adequate for tracking subjects during video recording. Even with almost static subjects. Dual Pixel AF would make for a more reliable system, no doubt, and would be a welcome aid to photographers. The system is available on the EOS-1D X Mark II and will be present on the new EOS 5D Mark IV (demonstrating this is not just something for entry level cameras, as some say), but then, again, we’re talking about a sensor with 24.2MP. With DualPixel AF and a touchscreen like the EOS 80D, the EOS 5D Mark IV is going to be a video machine!

Still, my question keeps unanswered: can Canon implement Dual Pixel AF in a monster sensor like the one on the EOS 5DS/S R? Or is the lack of a Dual Pixel AF the price to pay to have a 50MP camera?