Thursday, January 31, 2008

FCP tip

There are times when I want to apply a filter to more than one clip. I might adjust some settings and decide that I want that same thing applied to another clip. Easy enough, I right click on the filter in the filter pane and select copy. Then double click on the destination clip and paste the filter and it's settings so that they are applied to the new clip.

Easy enough :)

But if what I want is to apply a crop to another clip, I don't have the option of copy/paste in the settings window like I do with the filter window. Try as I might, no amount of right clicking on the crop effect in the motion tab window will give me a copy option...

Additionally, what if I want to copy a filter effect and apply it to more than one clip? Or the motion pane's settings for that matter? Well, this tip solves both issues.

Once I have the motion pane and filter settings that I want to apply to one or more clips, I right click on the clip in the timeline and select copy from the context menu. Then I select the destination clip(s) - One clip or a bunch - And I right click anywhere in the selected clip(s) in the timeline and select paste attributes.

This will bring up a pop-up menu that will allow you to select what attributes you would like to have pasted into the destination clips (such as crop, motion, filters etc). Select the items you want to have applied, click the OK button on the pop-up and voila!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Apple Mac Pro 8 core system review

Preface: I had purchased iWork about a year ago and I also upgraded it recently when Apple added the Numbers Application to the suite. When I write articles for the blog, I write them in Pages before I post them. For this article, I found Pages to be very unstable.

This is the first time that I have made significant use of the application since we went Leopard here at B-Scene. I had multiple application hangs and crashes and resorted to using Microsoft Word 2008. So for users of the current version of Pages under Leopard, you have been warned ☺

Now, on with the review!

Apple Mac Pro 2.8GHz 8 core system review


At B-Scene Films, we have had a quad core Intel Mac Pro for about 9 months. It is the 2.66 ghz model. It is configured with 6GB of RAM, the standard 250GB drive, 2 750GB SATA drives in a RAID 0 configuration for the storage of captured footage. It's name on our network is BigMac since it was the most powerful Mac in our stable.

Towards the end of last year, we determined the need for another machine. I decided that we would wait until MacWorld to see if an updated Mac Pro would be announced. Low and behold they announced the updates a week prior to the show (god forbid it might infringe on Randy Newman's wonderful singing...).

So we picked up the base model 8 core 2.8 GHz machine. We named it Angus on our network in keeping with the McDonald's theme that we had going with the BigMac (Angus is a new burger at McDonald's).

It comes with a 320GB drive and 2GB RAM standard. I ordered 4GB of RAM for the machine for $199 from Other World Computing and it arrived last Thursday. OWC is a great vendor for Mac products, I highly recommend them.

As a side note, I will refer to the 4 core machine as BigMac4 and the 8 core machine as Angus8. That way you will know which machine is the 4 or 8 core instead of trying to remember what silly names we used on the machines here at B-Scene.

Normally I would have bought the RAM from Crucial but they do not carry the newer 800 MHz RAM. In fact, it was backordered at OWC. Then we added 2 1TB SATA drives from Fry's at $259 each. Now, as I have stated in the past, I am not an Apple Fan boy - No koolaid for me, sorry. But, that being said, I have to give credit where credit is due...

In my office I have a WinTel machine that I built myself. Over the years, I must have built 50 of these things. And in that time, almost NONE of the hardware vendors have made any strides in simplifying this process or cleaning it up.

Adding memory, an expansion card or an HD to the machine is a nightmare. You are fighting with cables like crazy both inside and outside of the machine. On some of these systems, you have to pull out an HD to get to the DIMM slots to add memory. It's just ridiculous and in the years that I have been building these, it has never improved.

But the Mac Pro... This is another story.

Memory Installation

To add the memory, I turn the machine so that it's side panel faces me (I don't even bother to disconnect the cables in the back connecting the network, sound and video). I flip down a latch and take the cover off. There is not a cable in sight. I pull out the 2 memory riser cards, pop my 2 new 2GB modules into the upper riser card, move the Apple installed 1GB module to the upper riser, shove the 2 riser boards back into the Mac.

Done.

Total time to install new memory: Less than 7 minutes. On the Wintel machine it would have been 45 minutes and MUCH less pleasant.

Hard Drive Installation

To install the 2 drives, I push a lever to unlock the drive carriers. I remove the 2 carriers and attach the carriers to the 1TB drives using the 4 screws that come pre-loaded in the Mac’s drive carriers.

The screws are held in place by grommets so that you are not dropping them as you install. Nice touch. Since the carriers are outside of the machine, this process is very simple. No fighting with screws inside of a case where there is no light and no room to maneuver.

I then slide the drive carriers back into the Mac, press them at the end of their travel to ensure that the SATA socket in the Mac has mated with the drive firmly. Replace the Mac's side panel, push the locking lever down and we are all done.

About 15 minutes total time to upgrade the RAM and add 2 drives. Apple has this down. It's done right. It's the way ALL systems should be set up.

I have seen some Wintel cases try to emulate the drive tray system that Apple uses, but invariably it's made out of cheap sheet metal and, providing you don't cut yourself on the edges of it, is still a challenge to deal with due to poorly fitted parts.

If people wonder why you pay a premium for an Apple product, this is a big part of that reason - They are built properly with quality components.

NUMBERS

OK, now on to the numbers. Just how fast is this machine compared with the older Mac Pro that we have? Bear in mind that I am not MacWorld Labs. My approach is much more oriented towards real world results as they apply to Final Cut Studio.

All of these tests are being run under the current version of Leopard and the current versions of all of the FCS applications (FCP 6.0.2, Color 1.0.2, Motion 3.0.2, Compressor 3.0.2).

MULTI CORE USAGE

As to which applications use multiple cores, I ran Activity Monitor throughout these tests to see which applications leveraged the multi-core architecture of these machines.

FCP, Color and Compressor all used multiple cores. FCP makes very good use of the multi-core systems in both rendering and in real-time playback. Color uses them but in a very strange way that I suspect is a bug more than a feature. More on that after the Color tests.

During FCP and Compressor rendering the Activity monitor showing what cores are being used generally looked like this:



(Each horizontal bar is 1 core and the green shows how much of the core is being used.)

The test footage that I used to measure performance is footage from the DVD that comes with the Apple Pro Training series book Soundtrack Pro 2 by Martin Sitter. The footage was shot on a Sony F900 by Brian Terwilliger for his wonderful documentary One Six Right.

The clips are 1920 x 1080 and are in Apple ProRes 422 format (non HQ). These tests will focus on the following:

• Application load time
• Render time

For the render time tests, I will be taking a single clip of the One Six Right footage and applying color correction and brightness contrast adjustments in FCP to affect a day for night correction. In Color, I will undo the day for night correction and add a bleach bypass.

I will output final version from FCP using compressor. I will output the following formats:

• Uncompressed 10 bit full HD
• Compressed for iPhone / iPod
• Recompress H.264 full HD
• Output for standard NTSC DVD

Let's get started!

LOAD TIMES

The following are the load times for the applications:

BigMac4:

FCP - 30.5 seconds
Soundtrack - 10.6
Color - 5.7
Motion - 14.3

Angus8:

FCP - 18 seconds
Soundtrack Pro - 7.5
Color - 6.2
Motion - 9.1

Well, load times have improved for all except Color. Not sure why that is. Color loads VERY fast on both systems regardless.

RENDER TIMES

Project details:

One clip of full HD, 44.1 KHz stereo audio, 3 way CC added (white and black levels set), project duration 00:00:09:12.

Render Full Time Line:

Angus8: 22.2 seconds.
BigMac4: 30.0 seconds

Compressor output:

Angus8:

Full HD, h.264: 34.2 seconds
Full HD, 10 bit uncompressed: 43.8
iPhone preset 640x480 34.8
DVD Best Quality 90 minutes: 32.2

BigMac4:

Full HD, h.264: 49.7 seconds
Full HD, 10 bit uncompressed: 48.0
iPhone preset 640x480 36.6
DVD Best Quality 90 minutes: 40.0

COLOR RENDER TIMES

The sequence was sent to Color where the CC that was done in FCP was UN-done in the primaries room and a bleach bypass effect was added. The following number is the render time for each machine:

Angus8: 32.2 seconds

BigMac4: 33.9 seconds

Watching the Activity meter while Color is rendering presented a very different picture from the other applications. Processor usage appears to be flawed in that it uses all 8 or 4 cores sequentially instead of in parallel. Very odd…

Conclusion

Well, the performance areas that most impact our workflow here have seen a decent bump in speed. I suspect that the reason that Color’s render times are very close between the two machines is because of the bizarre way that Color uses one core at a time and sequences through the available cores instead of using them in parallel. One other nice benifit is that while projects that had an orange render bar on the Angus8 would play back in real time, that same project loaded on the BigMac4 would have a red render bar. So there is a nice bump in interactivity.

No buyer’s remorse here!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New MacPro review pending

We have one of the new 8 core MacPros here at B-Scene and this weekend I plan to run it through it's paces. My review will be focused on FCS performance. I'll contrast it to the 2007 MacPro quad that we use.

Most reviews on these boxes tend to be focused on raw benchmark numbers ( Like MacWorld's tests HERE). I will be looking at the machine from a more post production real-world perspective. One that uses FCS 2.0 as my benchmark software.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Do not update to Quicktime 7.4 UPDATED

you are a user of After Effects. There is a serious bug in the current version of Quicktime 7.4 that causes renders in AE to stop pre-maturely and forces AE to issue a permissions error.

Aparently this is tied to the DRM changes that went live in the current 7.4 version of Quicktime.

I have done a bunch of output from FCP 6.x using 7.4 and I have had no issues whatsoever. The issue has only been reported in After Effects so far.

UPDATE: Seems that it is causing an issue with streaming quicktime through the browser plugin - I have had it fail on Safari, Firefox and IE7 so far. - Bottom line: DON'T UPDATE TO 7.4. If you already have, consider using Time Machine in Leopard or a restore point in Win XP or Vista to roll back. Sorry, Tiger and previous OS X users - No fix for you :(

Monday, January 21, 2008

Shane's Stock Answers

Shane Ross is a broadcast editor in the LA area, a frequent contributor to LAFCPUG meetings, author of Getting Organized in FCP,  Blogger Par Excellance and all around nice dude.

Being an all around nice dude he tends to get the same FCP questions over and over and over.  In response to that, Shane has developed:

Shane's Stock Answers.  It's posted over at the cow - Check it out HERE.

Nice work, Shane!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Exterior shot planning

When Nance and I did the Aquarium short, we spent time at the location beforehand photographing the location at different times of the day so that we knew where the sun would be and what to expect in terms of natural lighting.

An alternative to this is to look up the location on Google Maps, get the GPS lat and long values and then use this sun position calculator HERE. You can then overlay that onto the Google satellite picture and get an accurate map of the sun's position for any time throughout the day.

It won't take into account weather conditions. You are on your own for that.
Thanks to Coffee and Celluloid for pointing this out.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Apple: New iPhone update unbricks iPhones

Ars Technica covers this HERE.

Apple took a lot of heat for bricking modded iPhones.  And, rightly so?  Yes, that is a question.  As Apple continues to partner with other companies in order to do business (The majors for movie rentals, Google, ATT et. al.), it becomes more and more difficult to understand the source of certain decisions.

Did Apple purposely brick iPhones?  Was it inadvertent? Did ATT dictate that to Apple?  We will never know.  One would hope that mature corporations such as Apple and ATT would have the foresight to understand the negative press associated with such a decision.  But, stranger things have happened.  When it comes to Apple, they are FAR to tight lipped for any of us to ever expect an answer about this.

As of now, Apple has redeemed itself with this update.  How big of a PR hit did Apple take with regard to the original updates that bricked the iPhone?  Well, I read a TON of negative press about it.  Lots of pros and cons.  But during that time, Apple stock continued to climb.

It's interesting to see how much a company can screw up while it's in Wall Street's good graces and still thrive.  At the end of the day, I have to blame Apple for the bricking.  It's their phone product.  Good or bad, they are the ones that will get the credit or the derision.

Apple announcements redux

As I have stated previously, I am not an Apple fan boy.  For the most part, I like their products and for me they provide solutions that are applicable to my work.  We have 3 Windows XP machines here at B-Scene,  a quad core MacPro, a Powerbook G4 and an 8 core MacPro.  The Intel Macs are also running Windows XP.  Nance runs Parallels and I run VMWare.

The Windows machines as well as the Macs provide us with issues and challenges as well as solutions.  I will admit that, for the most part, The Macs tend to be more stable.  I have an annual ritual with my Windows machines whereby I clean off the boot drive and re-install Windows from scratch in order to get it back to a stable condition.  I have never had to do that with a Mac.

A few people have taken me to task on my recent comments regarding Apple's product announcements at MacWorld.  Some of those comments have made me re-think my position on some of these products.

MacBook Air:  I pointed out a lack of FW on this machine.  Other people have also pointed out the inability to change the battery, no optical drive standard, small hard drive, high price etc.  Well, in fairness to Apple,  I think this machine is really targeted at the individual that is traveling a great deal or has a long commute on a train.

I think for that market, Apple has a winning solution on their hands.  The machine is very elegant, very lightweight (there are lighter machines out there), and has a very small footprint.  The addition of the multi-touch technology is also very nice.

For myself and the majority of the readers that come here, this machine is of no value.  That's OK.  It's not meant to be.

Apple TV: Two of my main beefs here are with time and cost.  I suspect that Apple had to acquiesce to the demands of the big movie studios in order to get this rental service off of the ground.  And, I must admit, it's a start.  A jumping off point for this new type of service.  In order to be successful, the model will have to be adjusted IMHO.  The 24 hour limit has to be addressed as should the cost of the rentals.

James Hendrick commented on my previous rant that the Apple TV is targeted at homes with WiFi.  His experience in streaming 720p across 802.11g is different than mine.  I have attempted to stream 720p material from my computer in the home office out to the xBox 360 in my living room with little success.  Maybe that is a fault of the xBox or the distance from the PC in my office.  For me, I have little confidence in it.  I stream MP3s just fine.  Not video.

Having worked in the tech sector for 30 years now, I have adopted a pragmatic approach to solutions.  Too many times I have seen failures occur because of a brand loyalty or technology loyalty that brought in products inappropriate to apply as solutions.

My loyalty lies with the company that provides the solution that best fits the problem being addressed.  That might be Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Sun or any other number of tech solution providers.  This pragmatic approach has served me well in the past.  I do not plan to abandon it.

As a final side note, I neglected to mention that I have one other PC here.  It's a Mac Plus from 1986.  It still runs like the day it was made.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Free Boris FX Snow Filter

The folks over at Boris (Makers of the incredible Continuum effects package for FCP) are giving away a slick snow filter for FCP - Lots of parameters to play with, lots of fun!

Get your copy HERE.

Why Apple TV 2.0 is DOA

Well, here we are. All of the hype about what the Steve would announce is behind us and the reality of what was actually announced is here in our faces. Apple's stock took a pounding today. Dipping to $156 at one point to close at $161. While some of that was attributed to Intel's disappointing fiscal reports, analysts are also attributing Apple's announcements yesterday as part of the cause for the drop.

I don't need to re-hash the announcements here, you can read about them all over the net or watch the keynote on Apple's website. I will, however, offer my take on a couple of items...

Macbook Air: When I saw this I thought about how great that would be to have on location. When I saw that it had no FW interface, it killed my interest in the machine. I am not the only one that had this reaction either. I would have taken that over the stupid mini-DVI connection any day...
iPhone 1.1.3 update: This rocks. All of the features that they added are great and I use them all. I hope they have fixed some of the irritating bugs (like clicking a link on a web page and having it go back to the home page. Then return to safari and all of my open pages are gone...).

And finally...
Apple TV 2.0: Great work getting all of the movie studios on board for the iTunes movie rentals. Too bad the business model is going to make this fail. Let's consider a few things here.

In order to get HD movies downloaded to the Apple TV, you need a broadband connection. Or you can select what you want to watch for tomorrow night, today, and start your wireless download now...
How many people have a broadband connection in their TV room? Only my geekiest of friends have this. I don't have it because I have vaulted ceilings and no elegant way to run the cable to that room.

But, OK, for argument's sake, let's say that the target customer DOES have gigabit ethernet in their TV room. This brings up the second deal breaker for me: Time and Money.

I spend $15 a month for Netflix. For that I get about 10 movies per month on average. I don't generally find that I need more than that. I get HD or SD versions of films - Same fee. It's easy. I like it. It's far from perfect...
iTunes HD rentals are $4.99 per - moreover they must be watched in 24 hours once you start watching the rented film. Both of these are deal breakers for me. Here is what would work:
A flat fee for a fixed number of downloads per month. Say $20 for 10 or 15 movies a month. Once I start to watch it, give me 72 hours. Lots of times Nance and I start to watch a film and it's too late in the evening to finish it and we don't get back to it for a day or two. I am SURE there are plenty of parents out there with similar issues.
So, a $20 per month flat fee. 72 hours to watch it. HD or SD. a beautiful interface for selecting the film I want to see (the Apple TV already has this). Broadband in my TV room so that I can start watching the film NOW.
That's my dream.
As it stands today, Apple TV 2.0 is stillborn. Mark my words.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Robert Rodriguez's film school

A bunch of bloggers have been linking to the 10 minute film school clips that Robert did up on Youtube. As a general rule, I try not to parrot what every other blogger out there is spamming. I try to come up with my own, original spam to bore you with. With that in mind, don't bother with the 10 minute film school.

I mean really. Why waste 10 minutes when you can get it done in FIVE.

Check it out:


Thursday, January 10, 2008

A few links - A few comments - UPDATED

UPDATE: maybe the war is finally over - HERE.

Walter Much is a fascinating guy. He has done some amazing work and I am always impressed with this renaissance man. There is a new set of articles on sound that he has authored and are well worth the read.

You can read his thoughts on sound HERE.

Harry Miller A.C.E over at the A.C.E. blog has some interesting thoughts on FCP and thoughts on why the product tends to be eschewed by a lot of the old guard A.C.E. membership. Check it out HERE.

As I am sure most of you know, Apple has released new 8 core MacPros and 8 core Mac xServers. A lot of speculation has sprung up around this announcement regarding what the Steve might announce at Macworld. Speculation that these are the ho-hum products that wont make the keynote cut. I think that's a reasonable expectation. I doubt we will see anything of the magnatude of the iPhone but it should be interesting nonetheless.

Speaking of the iPhone, there is a great article on it's development over at wired. Check it out HERE. Looking in from the outside, it's easy to think that something like this was just a well planned product that was cranked out by Apple. But a look under the hood reveals a lot more.

We plan to pick up another MacPro soon so the announcement of the new machines is timely for us. It will be nice to have compressor grinding on 2 MacPros.

There has also been a lot of speculation about the demise of the HD-DV format with Paramount's recent announcement regarding their support for the format as well as Warner talking about dropping it. I think it's too early to schedule the funeral for HD-DVD, but things are not looking good for the format.

I have an HD-DVD drive attached to my xBox but for my money, I would just like to see an end to the format wars. Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, whatever... The ideal situation for me would be a TiVo like box in my living room that I can download movies to and watch in HD on demand. Comcast has recently announced their new 160mbps broadband service that would allow the download of HD movies - An average of 4 minutes to get a 2 hour HD film.

That's what I want - No media. 99 percent of what I rent from Netflix I would NEVER buy. DLing to my home theater is what I want. I think we are close here...

I'll close with a little FCP tip: (v 6.x) When you look at an effect in a menu, if the effect in question is in bold type, this indicates that you can play the effect in real time without rendering it.

Happy new year, everyone!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Redrock M2 Cine-lens adapter report Part 2 - Review


As previously blogged HERE, we recently took delivery of a Redrock M2 Cinema Adapter, a Redrock Micro Follow Focus and a Redrock Powerpack to use with our Sony Z1 camera. This article will be broken down into separate sections detailing our experiences with both the product and with Redrock customer service.

Prior to delivery

Redrock sent us an e-mail after we had made the purchase telling us that we had 3 things to do to complete our order with them. The 3 things were:

Register for the customer support forums so that we could watch the video tutorials.

Get a free copy of Scopebox Lite (Mac software to monitor the M2 and flip the image).

Get a list of contact information for Redrock.


Now, for us to complete item one (and Redrock encouraged us to watch the videos prior to delivery of the M2), you have to provide the obligatory user name and password information typical of any forum software. But, in order to complete the registration, we had to supply the serial number of the M2.

And we would have been glad to do so except that we had not received the unit yet. So we had no way to pre-watch the setup videos prior to the arrival of the M2 as Redrock advised. We e-mailed Redrock about this issue and they said that they would correct it for future customers.
Once the M2 arrived, we completed the sign-up process to gain access to the videos. However, since each application for access to this section of the Redrock site is manually reviewed and enabled, we were still unable to get to the videos. There is a 24 hour period for enabling access to the videos.

I e-mailed Brian Valente at Redrock (having seen his name on their boards as an administrator) asking him to expedite access to the training videos. In the mean time, Nancy and I decided to forge ahead with the M2 using the printed installation guide.

The Package

We received the package via FedEx about 5 days after we placed the order. Inside of this package was two smaller boxes. The larger of the two boxes contained:

The M2 adapter
1 72mm Achromatic lens
1 pre-assembled rail set/support system
1 set of mounting shims
1 set of hex wrenches
1 set of adapter rings
1 82-72mm step down ring
1 rail mount long lens support
1 M2 adapter installation and use manual
1 hat

The smaller of the two boxes contained:

The Micro Follow Focus
3 lens gears (of varying sizes)
3 long hex bolts to extend gear ring radius
3 Follow Focus Whips (3", 12", 18")
1 Micro powerpod and rail set / support system
1 accessory adapter for powerpod
1 set of hex wrenches

Each box contained pre-cut foam inserts designed to be inserted into an equipment case for future storage needs. Very nicely done. The whole system was very nicely packed and arrived in perfect condition.

Installation

We prepped the Z1 by removing the built in lens hood / lens cover and the Skylight filter that we leave on it. Installation was fairly straight forward. The rail mounting unit has what appeared to be a typical video camera quick release plate mount. Since out camera already had a base plate installed, I attempted to just take the supplied baseplate and mount it on the bottom of the rail support rig but it turns out that the M2 uses a special larger version of it.

So we mounted the M2’s supplied baseplate onto the M2 and put our baseplate on the bottom of the rail mount assembly. Once that was done we slid the M2 unit on the rails up to the lens of the Z1. The documentation stated that the Z1 would not need to be shimmed for vertical alignment but we had to shim it anyway. Once we had good vertical alignment, we set the horizontal using adjustment screws on the bottom of the rail mount.

Once that was completed, we then installed the achromatic lens onto the front of the Z1, removed the hood/filter assembly from the back of the M2 and again checked the alignment. A small tweak to the horizontal alignment and we were good to go.

NOTE: The documentation tells you to put the rubber hood at the back of the M2 over the lip of the front of the achromatic lens. This lip does not exist on the 72mm achromatic lens. Only on the smaller version that is shipped for use with smaller lenses such as that used on the DVX100.

Once we had the M2 aligned and set, we were ready to set the zoom and backfocus on the Z1. This was a very simple process. We zoomed the lens to it’s widest position, focused on the ground glass grain in the M2 and then zoomed the lens back in to the point that the ground glass now filled the frame. Once that was completed, we used a bit of gaffer tape to lock the focus and zoom rings on the Z1 into place.

We decided to do our initial testing with the Nikkor 300 EDIF lens. Part of the reason is that since it has internal focusing and the lens barrel does not move in and out as you focus. This type of lens works well with follow focus as the lens gear is not moving away from the follow focus drive gear.

Installation of the lens Follow Focus gear is VERY easy. Simply slide the ring over the lens and tighten the thumbscrew. One of the nice things about the Redrock follow focus is that the gears are fairly wide. So in the instance of a lens where the barrel moves, you have some leeway for the gear to travel laterally and still stay synched with the drive gear. Here are some detail pics of the M2 mounted on the Z1:



TESTING

Following this, we mounted the unit onto our tripod and installed the lens. The follow focus drive assembly slid onto the rods easily and we aligned it with the lens gear. The adjustment for doing this is simple to manage. You will want to make sure that the drive gear is not meshed in too hard with the lens gear as it will tend to bind.

While initially testing the Micro Follow focus, we noticed that it made a pronounced squeal as you rotated the control knob. Loud enough that it would be picked up by any mics within about 100 feet of the unit. I posted on the Redrock web site forums about this issue and Brian Valente instructed me to make a simple adjustment to the unit. I performed the adjustment and the follow focus became silent.

At this point, we checked the overall functionality of the unit and it worked flawlessly. The M2 came with a battery already installed and ready to go. Nice touch! A lot of folks ask about noise and vibration with the M2 since it is running a motor and spinning a ground glass plate internally. The unit is VERY quiet. You MIGHT pick up some hum if you use a camera mounted mic. Other than that, there is zero issues with noise or vibration with the unit.

We then set up a Mac laptop so that we could monitor the output of the Z1 on the laptop and invert the image (the image produced by the M2 is inverted. See part one of this review for an explanation). The software that we used was a very nice little OS X application called FlipFlop.
Redrock supplies a free application for OS X that does the same thing as FlipFlop called Scopebox Lite. However, since we had not gotten access to the suppport area of the Redrock web site by this time, we elected to use FlipFlop instead.

To use FlipFlop, we set the Z1 into downconvert mode and set FlipFlop’s input format to NTSC DV. We then selected the image invert option and we were all set. We shot a number of tests with various lenses and lighting conditions.

The M2 introduces light loss. Redrock claims that it is about 1 stop, but Nance calculated that it was closer to 2 stops. We found that our 750w tungsten lights were generally plenty of light for shooting indoors.

TEST FOOTAGE

Here is a link to the quicktime test footage movie. I was going to upload this to Youtube but when I looked at the quality degradation I decided to just host the QT file myself and provide a link to it. The file is 20MB in size.

TEST FOOTAGE HERE

(Excuse the shake in a few of the shots - nance and I are not adept at good follow focus yet).

The last 2 shots in the movie were taken outside. I shot the first one with the M2 turned off and the last shot with it turned on to illustrate what effect the spinning ground glass has in the M2. As you can see in the footage, there is a pronounced grain effect when the M2 is turned off.

ACCESSORY RAILS AND POWERPOD

Next up was the accessory rail set and the powerpod. We do not have an AB battery to test the powerpod with so I will not be covering it’s use here. The accessory rails provide a platform behind the camera to mount various accessories with standard mount holes as well as a vertical hanging rack that can be used to put items such as a wireless receiver.

We decided to install a gooseneck mount for our external Marshall monitor. This way we would be able to easily flip the monitor over and invert it’s view. As you can see in the picture, this worked out very well. We used an SLR quick release to mount to gooseneck to ease in it’s installation and removal. The accessory mount is very sturdy and well built. It provided an excellent solution for mounting the gooseneck.

CONCLUSION

The M2 and it’s ancillary components along with the Micro Follow Focus are extremely well built. In terms of overall value, this package is very hard to beat. Everything is made with a high degree of precision and finish. We are extremely pleased with this product and we are very pleased with the overall customer service provided by Redrock.

If I had to come up with a rating on a scale of one to ten, the Redrock M2 HD package would score a very solid 9.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

M2 review delayed...

Well I had hoped to have had the M2 report up tonight but I had an HD crash on me that has the demo footage that I shot as well as a bunch of other material. So now I am dealing with that. So, to tide you over, here are a few items for you:

FCP tip: Option-P. Use this to view your un-rendered timeline. It's not real-time, but it's great when you need a quick preview and don't want to take the time to render.

7 Steps to write a successful script: HERE - Some great ideas there.

Hone your interviewing skills FAST: HERE - Again, some great ideas here.

OK, back to trying to recover this drive. Wish me luck!