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Test Drive

The GoPro HD HERO2 Camera

When my GoPro HD HERO2 camera first arrived, I was pretty excited. I had been watching the company improve their products for the last few years, and now I was going to have a chance to test their latest creation.

Just in case you’re not familiar with this product, GoPro cameras are tiny, stainless-steel boxes enclosed in a tough waterproof housing. They are wearable, gear-mountable, waterproof cameras capable of capturing professional full 170-degree, wide-angle, 1080p video and 11-megapixel photos at a rate of 10 photos per second. The HERO2’s main function is to serve as an inexpensive camera for shots that are too dangerous or in too tight of a spot for your main camera. For this reason, it’s very popular with professional athletes, sports filmmakers and anyone in need of some very cool-looking B-roll. The HD HERO2 Outdoor Edition model is the most advanced GoPro camera yet, and it comes with some very useful mounting accessories. Included are mounting accessories (that you’ll most likely use during outdoor sports, like biking, skiing, skating, or kayaking) and other accessories available via links on the GoPro Website.

I tested the GoPro HD HERO2 camera, which came with a waterproof housing that’s good to the depth of 197 feet. I tried it out in a swimming pool and instantly realized its potential for all kinds of projects. For fishing shows, it would be an inexpensive way to have a camera underwater. It would also allow for cool camera angles by shooting from underwater up at the actor. This could be a reverse shot of an actor looking at his reflection in the water or a Navy SEAL’s view of an enemy on a boat or dock. The cool thing is that the GoPro is so inexpensive that these extra shots take little time to set up — and cost you almost nothing. You can also fly the camera! A filmmaker friend attaches his GoPro camera to a toy helicopter to get quick establishing shots from the air. He claims that it’s faster than using a crane and, since the shot is only used for a few seconds, he’s able to cut in the footage to match his larger cameras.

Another accessory is the HD Skeleton Backdoor, which is used when mounting the camera to an automobile at speeds of less than 100 mph. While not waterproof, the slots on the camera’s back allow it to pick up a better audio signal. The Vented Helmet Strap and Head Strap are great ways to mount the GoPro on your forehead for hands-free shooting, like when climbing up a ladder or crawling across the floor. The two Curved-Surface Adhesive Mounts and two Flat-Surface Adhesive Mounts are great for easy mounting to handlebars or other surfaces, and the Three-Way Pivot Arm and Assorted Mounting Hardware complete the Outdoor Edition mounting kit.

A rechargeable Li-ion battery and USB cable are also included with the camera. The USB cable allows you to transfer data to your computer as well as charge your camera. The only thing not included is an SD card, so you may want to order one along with your GoPro. It can take SDHC memory cards up to 32GB, and they need to be at least class 4 (class 10 is needed for the Burst mode). You can expect four hours of 1080p30 or six hours of 720p30 on a 32GB card.

The camera’s new 2X Sharper Professional Glass Lens is an f/2.8 fixed focus, so there’s no need to worry about focusing while concentrating on the action. There’s a 90-degree narrow FOV available in the lower resolutions, a 127-degree medium FOV and a 170-degree, wide-angle in the 1080p mode. Since I normally shoot with a Sony FS100 camera, I prefer to use the1080p/1920×1080/30FPS preset on the GoPro. The other high-definition presets are 960p/1280×960/48FPS or 30FPS and 720p/1280×720/60FPS or 30FPS. The standard definition preset is WVGA/848×480/120FPS or 60FPS.

The GoPro’s high-performance CMOS image sensor is a little over a ½-inch wide with a light sensitivity of .84 V/lux-sec, which, along with the automatic white balance, seems to do a decent job in most lighting situations. I used it while indoors, outdoors and underwater, and I found it incredible that a $300 camera could get such great-looking footage. Most of you probably won’t be using this camera for still pictures — but if you do, here are the specs. You have your choice of 11MP, 8MP and 5MP resolutions at medium and wide 127/170-degree FOV. Amazingly, with a class 10 SD card, you can shoot a single 10-photo burst, a time-lapsed photo every .5 seconds, or even shoot yourself using the self-timer. The camera’s audio is actually better than you would expect. Although there’s a stereo external microphone input (3.5mm), audio is recorded as mono 48 kHz with AAC compression, using auto gain control. For B-roll types of sound, it’s fine.

How do you edit GoPro footage? The USB cable is included for charging and data transfer. The nice thing is that the battery can be charging while you transfer data. The HD HERO2 records an H.264 file in the .mp4 file format, which will work with Microsoft Windows Vista, 7 and later systems and Apple Mac OS X 10.5 and later systems. After shooting my tests, I loaded up the footage in Final Cut Pro X by selecting the Camera icon. FCP seemed to like the footage fine, but it seemed a little slow after adding a couple of effects. In Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, the files were right there in the Media Browser. And since I had set up the project and sequence to use a bigger codec, Red Giant Looks and Boris FX Final Effects Complete Light Rays, it looked great — and it was actually faster and more solid in CS6 than FCPX.

The GoPro HD HERO2 is just an amazing little camera. It’s also inexpensive, very usable and really fun to use.

MSRP: $300

Contact: www.gopro.com

My review system is a Mac Pro 2.93GHz, 12-core, 24GB RAM, running on Snow Leopard and Lion OSX. I use an ATTO R680 card in RAID 5 to control 16 Seagate SAS drives in two Ci Design cases. The NVIDIA Quadro 4000 card powers an EIZO ColorEdge CG243W and a 2s2 24-inch monitor, both of which are mounted on Monitors in Motion stands. Connected to a Blackmagic Design DeckLink HD card is a TVLogic LVM-170W monitor for video reference. Data backups are done on a G-SPEED Q RAID and Thermaltake BlacX Duet 5G. The Avid Artist Color panel is used to control various software, such as the DaVinci Resolve.


Adobe Encore CS6

adobe_encore_cs6Having the ability to make a DVD or Blu-ray Disc when you finish a project is a great asset to your production workflow. With Adobe Encore CS6 software, you can create standard-definition DVDs, high-def Blu-ray Discs or Web DVDs all from a single interface. You can even archive a copy of your project to Blu-ray Disc for future editing. In the past, I would archive to hard drives, but after several of them failed (while taking my projects with them) I now use Blu-ray Discs. And with the 8.54GB dual-layer DVDs and 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray Discs, I have quite a bit of room to store a project.

If you’re looking for a “film” look, Encore CS6 can maintain that aesthetic all the way to output with native support for 24p frame rates for Blu-ray, DVD and Web DVD titles, with the correct display of 24p timecode in the timeline. I’ve always enjoyed using Encore, and Adobe has sped up Encore CS6 in many ways. It increased the speed of my Blu-ray Disc and DVD authoring workflow with its native 64-bit performance and stability; opened and saved projects faster; and worked better on demanding projects. And if you want to make a quick slide show, Encore CS6 works great. Gone is the old 99-slide restriction for Blu-ray slide shows. CS6 now supports Blu-ray chapter playlists, 8-bit color highlight buttons and menu color enhancements, which can now be viewed in the correct pixel aspect ratio when previewing DVD simulations. 

If you use Adobe Premiere Pro as your editor with Encore CS6, you can avoid having to render out a transcoded file by using the Dynamic Link function. Just send your Premiere Pro sequences directly to Encore without rendering first. Changes in the timeline are reflected immediately in Encore, thanks to Adobe Dynamic Link. This even works with full native 4K and 5K formats, which is a huge timesaver. In fact, there’s timesaving Adobe integration in many of the CS6 suite programs. You can effortlessly move assets between Encore and Premiere Pro, After Effects and Adobe Photoshop Extended software while the Adobe Media Encoder works efficiently in the background to render your files. You can edit menus in Photoshop and see the changes appear instantly in your Encore project. Or, you can send a menu directly to After Effects CS6 for animation, export your animation as a movie file, and add it to your menu background to create a nice motion menu. How is that for fast? 

When you’re busy in Encore CS6, you can multitask by offloading transcoding jobs to Adobe Media Encoder, freeing Encore for other tasks. This is particularly important with 4K and 5K workflows that normally slow down your system. An easy chapter point addition has been added so that you can use a single command to add chapter points at fixed intervals, enabling viewers to skip quickly through a DVD’s content. And now Encore CS6 has automated chapter menus that let you create multipage menus automatically from chapters or slide shows in your project. Just set the exact location for your motion menu to loop back. You can verify your project at any time during production.

Encore CS6 checks your navigation for broken links, verifies bit rates, checks subtitles for problems, and presents the results in a sorted list. CS6 also plays well with others, allowing you to share your Encore projects without worrying about platform compatibility. Encore projects can be moved between Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac platforms freely and without conversion.  Encore CS6 comes with some very powerful and handy tools, like the capability to preview a project on the screen of your choice before burning. You can check the shape and alignment of items by identifying and viewing square and non-square pixels. And since formatting and cropping look different on a computer monitor than on a TV screen, you can now preview on both. No more having to create a DVD or Blu-ray Disc just to check your menu designs for video compatibility. 

To speed up replication, you can create replicated discs from Encore using direct DDP master support for DVD discs. These output files can then be sent via FTP directly to the mastering facility. You can add up to 99 separate timelines, each with up to 99 chapter points, 8 audio streams and 32 subtitle streams. For subtitles, simply import line 21 files to add closed captions to your DVDs (NTSC titles only). For international distribution, just set the language codes for audio and subtitle streams so that viewers can select by name rather than by number, then use region coding to control the geographical regions where replicated DVDs and Blu-ray Discs can be played. If you wish, you can even include extra files in the DVD-ROM zone for extra value when your DVD discs are read on a computer. You can easily edit subtitle tracks by exporting them as text, then use tools optimized for text editing to save time and increase productivity. These exported subtitles can then be re-imported into Encore. And thanks to subtitle export/import support, you can also type and format subtitles directly over video, or import and format a script containing multiple subtitles. 

Even input-file support is more flexible with Encore CS6. You can import timeline markers from AVI, H.264 and MPEG-2 files exported from Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 or After Effects CS6 software. (By using Edit Original, you can modify your original project in Premiere Pro CS6 then import the changes back into your Encore project.) You can also import AVI, QuickTime, WMV, H.264 and MPEG-2 source files to build your DVD or Blu-ray Disc navigation, and then encode the source files as MPEG-2 or H.264 video assets when you’re ready to burn your disc. If your video has different audio sample rates, the built-in sample-rate conversion can automatically convert your source audio to the 48kHz audio used for DVDs. So now you can have many different types of SD and HD footage on one Blu-ray Disc.

To engage viewers effectively with keyword-searchable Web DVDs, Encore CS6 now uses metadata from menu and button names, speech analysis and subtitles to make Web DVDs searchable. Another powerful Encore tool is XMP metadata that can be used to quickly identify assets or automate tasks. You can view and edit XMP metadata from within the Project panel in Encore, or use metadata keywords to search for files in Adobe Bridge.

Adobe Encore CS6 software is a very cool solution for all of your DVD authoring needs because it’s quick and versatile with a powerful toolset. The speedy Encore becomes even faster when used with the rest of the CS6 suite — and with the addition of an NVIDIA Quadro 4000 or Tesla card for CUDA processing, it will get even faster. Do you feel the need for speed? 

MSRP: Adobe Encore CS6 (price varies with suite)Contact: www.adobe.com 

MSRP: NVIDIA Quadro 4000 (street price about $750) and Tesla (about $2,000)Contact: www.nvidia.com

My review system consisted of a Mac Pro 12-core 2.93GHz with 24GB of www.lifetimememory.com RAM; LSI SAS 9750-8e controller card connected to two Ci Design 8-bay RAID cases loaded with 16 Seagate 450GB SAS drives; Blackmagic Design DeckLink HD Extreme 3D card with output viewed on a TVLogic 17-inch HD monitor; NVIDIA Quadro 4000 card connected to a 24-inch EIZO ColorEdge monitor and 2s2 24-inch monitor mounted on Monitor in Motion stands; G-Technology G-SPEED Q and Thermaltake BlacX Duet 5G for backup and small projects; two Genelec audio monitors; Mackie mixer; Wacom intuos tablet; Apple Color panel and KB Covers for various programs.
David Hurd can be contacted at www.dhpvideo.com


The ATTO ExpressSAS R680 RAID Adapter

To effectively edit high-end HD projects you’ll need a RAID, which is just a bunch of hard drives working together to deal with the huge amounts of video data that are being manipulated. And if you’re editing DV at 25Mbits/sec, you’ll have no worries as 25Mb divided by 8 bits per byte equals only a bit over 3MB/sec, which any hard drive can handle. But there’s a problem when you work with larger formats, like the one recorded on Blackmagic Design’s HyperDeck Shuttle. The full, uncompressed 10-bit recording rate of 1264Mb/sec or 158MB/sec is more than any regular hard drive is going to be able to handle. An SSD can deal with the speeds, but who can afford to own terabytes of SSDs? What you are left with is SATA and SAS drive RAID arrays to process all of your data.


Third-Party Plugins

The latest video-editing software to hit stores is wickedly powerful. How do I know this? After editing over 60 TV shows; hundreds of commercials, music videos and Web videos; and years of corporate work, I have already used most video-editing software — and what I’ve learned is that, in addition to being creative and very meticulous, it’s important to work with good video-editing tools.

When I started out in video editing, I used Adobe Premiere and some older programs that are no longer made. From there, I tried NewTek Video Toaster until I realized that other software programs had many more plug-ins available to make very cool-looking images. I then tried software that is no longer made and went back to Premiere before I finally switched over to Apple computers and started using Final Cut Pro, which I’ve been using ever since. I have also tried Grass Valley EDIUS and Sony Vegas video-editing software, but I always return to Final Cut Pro for most of my work. For a while, it looked like Final Cut Pro 7 was going to be phased out by Final Cut Pro X, but Apple has resumed selling its Final Cut Pro 7. This is really great news because of the huge amount of plug-ins already available for Version 7. Still, Final Cut Pro X is growing, and new features and plug-ins are becoming available as it matures.


Adobe CS5.5 and DaVinci Resolve 8 Updates

A few months ago I reviewed Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 and the DaVinci Resolve for Mac only to have both companies come out with major new software upgrades. Here are the important changes that you should know about.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5

While the CS5.5 Production Premium Suite contains unchanged editions of Illustrator, Photoshop Extended, Encore, Bridge and OnLocation, most of what we use as editors has changed. There are now new versions of After Effects, Premiere Pro, Flash Catalyst, Flash Professional, Device Central and Media Encoder. Also, Audition is back in the lineup and now runs on Apple Mac OS X as well as Microsoft Windows.

Premiere Pro CS5.5 has been upgraded to handle the latest workflows. There’s native support for Canon XF Series camcorders and enhanced support for RED cameras. Additionally, there are helpful new additions like histograms, an eyedropper to select white balance, and five-point curves to adjust red, green, blue or Lumina values. In the filters section, Directional blur, Fast blur, Additive dissolve, Invert and the new Film dissolve have been added to the list of accelerated effects.

DSLR users will be happy with the new Merge Clips command that lets you create a single clip from aligned audio and video tracks, with no reprocessing required.
You can also remove a selection of multiple layers of the timeline using the Extract command. And After Effects now has the Warp Stabilizer for removing camera shake and rolling-shutter effect caused by progressively scanned CMOS sensors.

Adobe has been listening to user feedback, and it now offers a pen tool to add keyframes to the rubber band directly on the timeline, rather than having to go into its Effects Properties panel. The company has even made switching over from another editing system easier by allowing you to use keyboard shortcuts from Avid Media Composer 5.5 or Apple’s Final Cut Pro 7 instead of the Adobe shortcuts.

In After Effects, the Light Falloff settings reduce the intensity for objects that are further away from the source for a more natural look. You can use camera layers to simulate depth-of-field effects (and choose what will be in focus) and you can create rack-focus effects by using key frames. There are also new cool 3D features, and you can compose a scene in 2D and use the Create Stereo 3D Rig command to produce three new compositions (for left and right eyes and the stereo 3D combination) while you easily adjust the depth and convergence.

The CS5.5 version of Media Encoder is even better at delivering content in multiple formats. You can create folders that point at multiple targets so your media is automatically encoded to a selection of file types when placed in the Watch folder. Also, you can drag and drop sequences directly from the Premiere Pro project panel to add them to the Adobe Media Encoder Queue.

Adobe has created a new Audition engine that’s reported to be considerably quicker at processing. You can now do roundtrip editing with Premiere Pro CS5.5: You can export clips, sequences or work areas to Audition, then export them back into Premiere Pro when you’re finished working on them. You can also keep the multi-track layout or mix down to mono, stereo or 5.1 surround sound.

In addition to the existing DeClipper, DeClicker and Speech Volume Matching tools, Audition’s audio-cleaning section has a new DeHummer filter for removing background rumble and a DeEsser for removing excessive sibilance. There’s also a History panel to roll back edits and the ability to work natively with 5.1 surround-sound projects.

The thing that really sets CS5.5 apart from other editors is their Mercury playback engine. Using NVIDIA CUDA technology for acceleration, you can really speed up rendering by adding the proper graphics card. In addition, CS5.5 adds the support for more than one graphics card to be used for CUDA processing. With the addition of a Cubix bus expander and multiple NVIDIA cards, you can have hundreds of cores available for processing in real time.

All of these cutting-edge products are the result of Adobe responding to customer feedback.

KB Covers

During this review I had the pleasure of using keyboard covers for After Effects and Photoshop from KB Covers. They are extremely thin and flexible; they stick to my keyboard very well; and all of the shortcut keys are labeled, making it a lot easier to hit the right key. Oddly enough, they shortcuts seem to improve the feel of my keyboard rather than hamper my typing — and small things like this can make a big difference. KB keyboard covers are inexpensive and a great way to fight the learning curve on new products.

oct_davinciresolvesystem_sfwDaVinci Resolve 8

DaVinci Resolve is the world’s most advanced color-correction tool because it’s used on more Hollywood feature films, commercials and television shows than any other system. While the previous version is great, the updated version adds a lot of new features that you should know about.

The new features in DaVinci Resolve 8 include multilayer timeline support with editing, and XML import and export with Final Cut Pro. The new XML import and export (combined with the multilayer timeline in DaVinci Resolve 8) lets you import complex sequences from Final Cut Pro, color grade them and export them directly back into Final Cut Pro, with all the new graded shots and layer structure intact. It’s kind of like Apple Color on steroids. If the Final Cut Pro edit is changed, DaVinci Resolve 8 will automatically relink all the clips so the grades are preserved. Editing can also be performed inside DaVinci Resolve 8 so you can adjust and relocate your clips.

In addition to CUDA technology, the new DaVinci Resolve 8 now includes OpenCL processing to allow use on iMac and MacBook Pro Series computers. Now iMacs and MacBook Pros can be used for real-time grading, allowing you to use the computer hardware that you already have. DaVinci Resolve 8 run on a MacBook Pro is also a perfect on-set color-grading tool.

With its own control surface, and the Wave panel that I use from Tangent Wave Ltd., Resolve 8 now supports the Avid Artist Color control panel with ALE export to relink graded DNxHD files back into Avid editors.

If you have noise in your footage, DaVinci Resolve 8 can help. The system includes a new high-quality CUDA noise reducer that eliminates noise and helps to make images perfectly clean. The DaVinci Resolve 8 noise reduction is incorporated into the Color Correctors so it can be used in any corrector node, and it’s limited to inside or outside windows or color qualifiers so you can actually use noise reduction creatively.

The same holds true if your handheld shots have too much wiggle. DaVinci Resolve 8 includes a new multipoint Advanced Stabilizer that fixes unstable shots. The Stabilizer is intelligent and uses dozens of stabilization points to totally lock every part of the image. This results in incredibly stable images.

If there’s any flaw in the DaVinci Resolve, it would be the learning curve. It’s so powerful and flexible that it takes a while to learn how to use all of the controls. The good news is that for colorists new to DaVinci Resolve, there’s a new Curve Grading feature that works like the one that you’re used to, which will help you to get up and running quickly.

DaVinci Resolve 8 Curve Grading takes this interface much further. You can customize the curves to get greater control with hue vs. hue, hue vs. sat, hue vs. lum, and lum vs. sat controls. For the fastest grading speed, curves can be adjusted from the mouse or control panel. Also, because of the Resolve 8’s superior algorithms, you can expect to see better-looking images in your final product.

For colorists working in stereoscopic 3D, DaVinci Resolve 8 includes a powerful new automatic image alignment tool that automatically aligns images between cameras to produce a perfect 3D image. With the new Automatic Stereoscopic 3D image alignment, hundreds of individual image points are analyzed, and the image is perfectly aligned between the eyes to produce an incredibly sharp and vibrant 3D image. Alignment only takes seconds per shot and it’s completely automatic, so you don’t have to set anything.

An upgrade to Resolve 8 is free for DaVinci Resolve owners, so if you already own a Resolve system, there’s no reason for you to not take advantage of this free offer.
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