Customer stories: Gifford Hooper and HoverCam

Customer stories: Gifford Hooper and HoverCam

Aged 13, Gifford Hooper built his first model helicopter in order to get aerial shots of his school for a geography project. Fast forward a few years (and models) and he’s an Oscar-winner and one of the world’s leading aerial filming camera operators.

Back in 1979, Gifford Hooper’s school geography department wanted aerial photos of the school, prompting him to build and operate a model plane with a 35mm clockwork camera so that he could get the necessary shots.

35 years and a few generations of technology later, Gifford is now the proud owner of an Academy Award™, having pushed the aerial shooting envelope with Hawkeye and HoverCam. His work can be seen in 24 Hour Party People, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Finding Neverland and 28 Weeks Later.

Hovercam Showreel 2010 from Gifford Hooper on Vimeo.

Can you still remember your first big break?

It was in 1990, when a riot broke out at Strangeways. I got in touch with ITV news and explained I could get them shots they’d never seen before, so they were very excited and ended up commissioning us to film the rooftop protest live – the first time a live  TV broadcast relay had been achieved from a civilian drone. That was also the first time I worked with Philip George, with whom I went on to found HoverCam. I’ve moved on since then am now working with a different set up and crew.

How has your kit changed since then?

When we started working together as HoverCam, we had a 16mm Beaulieu, a S16mm ARRI SR and an ARRI IIC with Cinematography Electronics’ crystal motor base. The first big change was when turbine engines became reliable, because the extra power let us carry bigger payloads and better guidance systems. With the advent of digital cinematography we’ve been able to move to smaller RED cameras, which make life a lot easier.

What drives your changes? Are you always looking to improve, or do you look at the setup on a job-by-job basis?

We’re always trying to improve, although if the client wants something exotic then a flying machine will have to be built for that project. Technology, reliability and safety are the main driving forces behind our changes.

What drives your choice of camera when it’s your choice?

Image quality, size and weight are the biggest issues. When it comes to image quality we have to test different cameras for rolling shutter issues and well we can electronically communicate/integrate with the camera to control its functions remotely. If we have to use a bigger camera, we look at what can be stripped off it without it losing functionality – in some cases we’ve physically cut parts off the camera.

Which camera has generated the most issues when it comes to aerial shooting?

All cameras have different issues to get over, but I guess when we used to shoot full frame 35mm motion film, we had to modify the camera gates, machine different lens adapters and install our own video assist cameras and remote controls. Nowadays all this involves is programming different protocols to talk to the camera’s electronics.

Are you working on the rig at the moment?

The most recent development is a new GPS autopilot system that I’ve implemented, dual autopilot controls for redundancy, new integration of camera controls with the GPS systems. It’ll allow for safer flying and new motion control possibilities.

What’s the most challenging shoot you’ve undertaken?

Well they all have their ups and downs – in aerial filming, all shots are challenging, that’s why they’re the icing on the cake. The hardest things are action sequences in feature films, when you have lots of cast and crew who have to be in the right place at the right time. This isn’t a crane that you can just leave in one place while adjustments are made to the set or actors, so you have to rehearse everything without flying first.

Is there a shot that you’re most proud of?

Working on feature films is the best work to have, but I guess working on commercials with huge budgets means you get to go to some amazing places. We filmed a soft drinks commercial in the Maldives, I think it was for Japanese TV. The shot called for a small beach island with one palm tree and a couple drinking the soft drink, they are on sun loungers and have a kite flying above them giving them shade. Our shot was an aerial view of the complete island surrounded by sea, the couple on the sun loungers with a kite flying close to the aerial camera in the foreground.

To achieve this we had to assume there would be no wind to fly the kite, so that was tethered to the ground and lifted up by a smaller model helicopter. Then we positioned the aerial filming helicopter above the kite. Because the complete island and the sea surrounding it was in view, we couldn’t operate the helicopters from the island and had to build scaffold towers in the sea instead.

Are there any moments where things have gone drastically wrong?

In the early days, mechanical faults where our biggest challenge. The machines had to be completely stripped down and rebuilt overnight while the film crew slept, so we could have a fresh working machine for the morning. We got very little sleep on film shoots! The biggest technical problem we ever had was filming a hotel commercial in Thailand – we lost power and ditched the helicopter in the empty pool. This was back when we were shooting film, so could pull the camera out, strip it, dry it, clean it, grease it, reassemble and test it, then carry on with the shoot with our second machine.

You’ve just won an Academy Award™, which must have felt amazing…

It was awesome, and a complete shock. It’s very nice to have fellow filmmakers acknowledge your many years of hard work.

But looking forward from that, where do you see aerial filming going next?

The market for drones for aerial filming is booming. This is a fantastic time for the market, with lots of computer controlled drones and high quality small cameras. Our systems are all electronic now, so we have fewer mechanical problems to deal with. Usability and reliability are up 100 fold compared to 25 years ago.

Do you see any downsides?

Unfortunately, this leads to some rogue use of technology. A lot of people doing this for the first time are unskilled in aerial filmmaking and flying, and I think a lot more training needs to be done. For example, a lot of people are unaware that it’s illegal to fly without a CAA licence for commercial filming. Even if you’re only doing it as a hobby, you have to abide by the CAA air navigation order.

So your advice to young aerial cameramen is to know the law?

Well your first starting point is to learn how to fly a model RC plane and helicopter to give you a good understanding of flying, start asking for help from people who have being doing it for 30 years. Then obtain the licence for commercial aerial filming work from the CAA.

Looking to get started? We can’t issue pilot’s licences, but if you’re wondering which cameras to invest in, give the team a call.

To find out more call 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Adobe Illustrator CC gets GPU-acceleration for the first time

Adobe Illustrator CC gets GPU-acceleration for the first time

For creatives relying on the magic of Illustrator CC’s vector graphics, you’re about to find the creative workflow a far smoother experience. Thanks to graphics processing giants NVIDIA, Illustrator is able to take advantage of GPU-acceleration for the first time. The technology to applaud for getting your GPU out of it’s armchair is NV Path.

NV Path is an extension of OpenGL, and the result of work between NVIDIA and Adobe. NV Path offloads path rendering onto the GPU, leading to increased fluidity when zooming and panning around your resolution-independent creations.

Previously, Illustrator performance was served up entirely by the CPU, often leading to stuttering, spluttering and an interrupted creative process. Unlike their 3D cousins, 2D artists haven’t had access to the GPU until now. When Illustrator CC is able to perform 10 times faster, you’ll wonder how you got by.

While all this sounds like a technical marvel (and it is!), Illustrator CC’s central mission is to get your imagination onto the screen and beyond with the least resistance. News of this stutter-killing advancement will delight 2D artists, whose creative impulses won’t be held back by an overworked CPU.

For users with the winning combination of Creative Cloud and an NVIDIA GPU, NV Path enabled Illustrator CC is available now.

For more information, call 03332 409 306 or email on at adobe@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Introducing Apple curriculum training (and our 5 top courses)

Introducing Apple curriculum training (and our 5 top courses)

Bringing new technology into the classroom is great, but how do you make sure your staff are ready for it? We recommend Apple curriculum training courses delivered by our own Apple accredited trainers (who are ex-teachers themselves).

Courses can be tailored to your school’s specific requirements, and range from iOS and Mac basics to subject-specific training, preparing for rollout and even device management. They’re all designed to give your staff a solid grounding on how to use iPad, iOS and Mac generally, and then within each subject area, so they have the competency and confidence needed to lead a lesson.

Sidney Stringer Apple Training 3

What do we offer?

We offer a huge range of courses from foundation iOS and OS X training to curriculum-based sessions and even vision and planning for your Apple deployment. We also offer Apple’s Professional Development (APD) courses, as well as our own. We’ve picked out our top five below, but get in touch to find out about the full range available.

Introduction to iOS

This hands-on course helps staff get to grips with the core apps for the iPad and how they can introduce the technology effectively into their learning environment. We look at gestures and personalisation of the devices, along with use of the Camera, Notes, Safari, iTunes U and iBooks apps, as well as accessibility tools like text-to-speech and guided access.

iPad built-in apps can be utilised to support students and teachers in the classroom, and it’s important that staff realise the potential of these before moving onto third party applications.

Vision and planning for iPad

Within this session, we’ll discuss current plans and pedagogies and examine how we can use the iPad to support staff, students and parents within the school and beyond. It’s also important to think about the impact that this will have on existing plans.

Finally, we ensure that at the end of the session a clear plan is formed. This includes how we can communicate all of our ideas, strategies and implementations to staff, pupils and parents clearly as the institution moves forward.

iOS and productivity

This course is the ultimate boot camp for teachers who want to squeeze the most out of the incredible functionality that comes with each iWork app – Pages, Keynote and Numbers. Throughout the workshop, you’ll be getting hands-on with these apps to create documents, presentations and spreadsheets so that you can develop an in-depth understanding of what each app can do.

iTunes U Course Manager

In this session, you’ll use the iTunes Course Manager and your existing teaching resources to create an iTunes U course based around your curriculum area. We will explore best practices and view existing courses to gain ideas on implementation of courses within our own classrooms.

We will look for other resources that already exist within iTunes U, a huge catalogue of educational content that is constantly being updated by educators around the globe.

iBooks Author

This in-depth course looks at how to easily create your own digital textbooks for free using iBooks Author (a cinch if you’ve ever created a Word document or produced a presentation), exploring everything from accessibility features in iBooks to multimedia copyright issues so that you can be sure that you’re accessing the right resources and have the legal right to distribute (and even edit) them within your iBook.

At the end of the session, you will create an iBook that supports your own curriculum to ensure you have the skills to continue producing materials for your own cohort of students.

Sidney Stringer Apple Training 1

Who’s delivering this training?

Our fully-accredited Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) are former teachers who can come and deliver APD training onsite at your school at a time that best suits you. There’s no need to go anywhere or call anyone else in – just get in touch with the team!

Paul Ford 

Paul’s got eight years’ experience teaching students, teachers and local authority staff of all technical abilities. His roles have included Lead professional in Music Technology at The East Manchester Academy and Multimedia/Network Manager at South Manchester City Learning Centre.

Mike Watkinson

Mike’s been working with Apple technology in the classroom since the mid-90s, in a variety of subjects and across different age groups. He’s an Apple Distinguished Educator, Apple Certified Trainer and Avid Certified Trainer, supporting schools and colleges for the last ten years.

What are other schools saying?

“Fantastic and engaging speaker… everything was explained in a way where even the most inexperienced user could understand.” West Grove Primary School.

“Paul was brilliant! He is knowledgeable, completely understanding teaching and learning issues. He always passes on any new information he comes across, which has really helped in the past, he is always willing to provide really helpful advice and follows up any promises of finding out about something – this is why we intend to ask Paul in for further training in the future.” Levenshulme High School, Manchester.

Budget check

Full day sessions cost £650, half days are £325, and we also offer twilight sessions, with discounts available for shorter sessions and bulk bookings. Get in touch and we can probably accommodate you!

Download our Apple curriculum training catalogue

Want to know more? View the full training catalogue here, or get in touch with the team on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and FAQs, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Interactivity in your class’s hands: Why touchscreens are the next big thing

Interactivity in your class’s hands: Why touchscreens are the next big thing

If there’s one thing that I’m convinced of, it’s that multitouch technology is far easier to pick up for children than it is for adults. 

We’re already seeing it in the classroom (research has shown that 47% of schools are now trialling or using iPad) and more than ever we are seeing it in daily life; I recently found myself at an exhibition about space in a room full of six and seven year-olds who all expected to be able to move the stars around on screen with their fingers – much to their disappointment, they couldn’t.

It’s not surprising then that, at this year’s BETT show, giant interactive touchscreen displays were one of the hottest topics. Best thought of as giant tablets or TVs with multitouch technology, they proved a hit with teachers because they open up interactivity and collaboration in a way that’s not previously been available. On a basic level, they improve engagement letting pupils physically interact with a subject, but the learning benefits go far beyond that…

What exactly is an interactive touchscreen?

The best way to describe an interactive touchscreen is a giant iPad that can be either wall-mounted or used flat on the desk. You get all the same visual functionality as you do on an iPad – an HD screen for streaming video and images and built-in speakers make them ideal for presenting to the class.

And the multitouch aspect also means they’re ideal for letting pupils get hands on with activities too – using simple finger touch, they can intuitively interact with programs onscreen. As well as encouraging pupil interaction and group activities, teachers can also lead the class from the front, or even get pupils to connect wirelessly with their mobile devices to get involved with activities.

What are the learning benefits of interactive touchscreens?

Touchscreens are perfect for making sure you’re targeting 21st century learning skills. They’ll improve collaboration, boost critical thinking and problem solving, and can be used with all the great content that teachers and pupils have already prepared. The main benefits include:

Greater increase in pupils’ attention

Pupils are naturally drawn to touchscreens, and the interactivity really helps them engage with subjects. If you have pupils with a short attention span who struggle to engage with topics, touchscreen displays can help. Up to four students can use them at one time, so there’s less chance to switch off as they’re engaged in learning full time.

Better collaboration between pupils and with the teacher

Set pupils a group challenge and they can use the display to complete it – for example, a simple jigsaw puzzle that they would normally complete themselves can be turned into a group activity. Another option is for pupils to use iPhone or iPad to connect the display for mirroring (displaying their iPad screen on the touchscreen) and annotation.

Reduced replacement costs and better visibility

Unlike a data projector, a touchscreen uses an LED screen rather than a lamp. That means you won’t find yourself having to replace costly projector bulbs when they come to the end of their life (to put it in perspective, the approximate life of a touchscreen like the CTOUCH before any element needs replacing is put at 15 years, or 45000 hours!). It also means there are no shadows obscuring your work as you walk in front of the screen!

Increased class attendance

We’ve had great feedback from our schools who say they have integrated innovative technologies like touchscreens with a 1:1 iPad scheme, and it has actually increased attendance levels because the pupils have been so engaged with the technology.

How could we use touchscreen?

One use we really like for interactive touchscreens is collaborative storytelling. For example, you could get a small group of pupils to work together to plan a story and write it by dragging and dropping images, video and other elements into the plan. Because up to four pupils can be working on a touchscreen at once, it means everyone gets to join in and interact with the process, and annotate sections with thoughts and ideas.

Jigsaw24’s top pick: the CTOUCH!

HD display. From 47” right up to a whopping 84”, the CTOUCH’s antiglare screen gives a great picture, even in the brightest classrooms.

Multitouch functionality. There’s no need to hold a stylus – the CTOUCH’s screen works with the touch of a finger, and supports up to four pupils.

Built-in speakers. With 20W speakers included, you get great sound quality, or the additional Sound Bar gives enhanced surround sound.

Mobile device connectivity. Connect iPad and iPod with included Smoothboard Air software for displaying iPad screens and annotation.

Adjustable trolley. Fully height-adjustable for all students, including those in wheelchairs. This means smaller screens are just as usable, and can be wheeled to wherever they’re needed.

Budget check: CTOUCH interactive touch screens range from £2730 for the smallest 47” model up to £13,194 for the 84” option. See the full range of CTOUCH options here.

Want to know more about how touch screens could help in your classroom? Give us a call on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and recommendations, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Is it time for your boardbooks to go digital?

Is it time for your boardbooks to go digital?

A while back, when we offered you our six best app ideas to boost your business, we stayed out of the boardroom. However, with mobile devices becoming more pervasive, board members becoming more distributed and the security concerns mounting, we think the time is right to talk about board meeting apps. 

What is a board meeting app?

Board meeting apps essentially replace your paper boardbook – bulky, difficult to update, expensive to print – with an interactive electronic version that you can tote round on your iPad. They usually include functionality that will help secretarial staff collate and distribute documents electronically and securely to board members, including late papers and updates.

Many also include meeting planning functionality to help with scheduling the meeting itself and – perhaps most importantly – functionality to make sure that all attendees can view, present and annotate different documents in concert. Typically, the app itself is free to download, but you’ll need to pay an annual for the back end of the solution – the bit that makes it all work and keeps your information secure. Some will break this down on their iTunes page, but many companies will provide you with pricing on a case-by-case basis.

What’s the advantage of dedicated apps over free ones like GoodReader?

While some companies do arrange meetings using free apps like GoodReader, we advise against it for all but the most basic meetings. GoodReader is, as Mashable says, “a Swiss army knife of awesome” (and a former Jigsaw24 app of the week), but it doesn’t have calendaring functionality and isn’t designed for collaborative working. Yes, you’ll have an electronic version of your boardbook, but you won’t be able to share your annotations in realtime, or edit documents while presenting.

The advantage of a dedicated app is that it combines the capabilities of document readers, calendars, content sharing sites like Dropbox and presentation tools into a single system, then adds useful touches like the ability to lock users to specific pages or documents while you’re presenting on them.

What are the business benefits of a board meeting app?

Let’s start with the obvious: you save a lot of money on printing and delivery/couriering for your books. One of our customers, investment company NorthEdge, are on track to save £300 a week on printing after switching their staff to iPad – that means an iPad pays for itself every week.

At the same time, the fact that you’re dealing with electronic documents that are being shared over a secure connection should improve your data security. Granted, there are people out there with the skills to hack into your VPN, but there are far more who are capable of intercepting a physical document, and the collate-print-bind process offers plenty of opportunity for your data to fall into the hands of third parties. Plus, once the information is on your iPad, it’s protected by industry-leading device security, and can be remotely wiped should anything go wrong.

Dedicated board meeting apps also facilitate clearer, easier communication. Your secretarial staff can edit, upload and distribute boardbooks with a swipe, sending them out along with key meeting info and, in some cases, using the same interface to send follow-up information and minutes post-meeting.

We’re so impressed by the amount of time having all these processes integrated saves that we’re integrating similar functionality into our free b7 app, which allows directors to pre-define goals and talking points for each meeting they take. Sales staff can then log notes against each one and then share automatically generated minutes with the customer and head office.

And it’s not just before and after the meeting that these apps are useful. The ability to lock screens means you can keep everyone on the right page, even if key stakeholders are attending remotely, so it’s easier to keep everyone on track. Collaborative tools and shared annotations are going to make it easier for you to work together within the meeting, so you can achieve more in the time you have.

What are your options?

There are plenty out there, and we definitely recommend scoping out a few before making your final decision. Here are a few to get you started…

BoardPad (ICSA Software, free but requires a subscription)

Possibly the best known solution in the UK at this point, BoardPad supports iOS and Windows 8 devices, and combines in-meeting annotation and presentation functions with its own Connect platform for organising meetings (this is fairly impressive in its own right). We particularly like the fact that you can create ‘secure reading rooms’ for different groups of users and give different users different permissions when it comes to opening, printing and emailing the documents within them. Its proven track record with the FTSE100 set doesn’t hurt, either.

Anywhere Pad (Azeus Systems Holdings, free but requires a subscription)

This promising app has only just reached the UK but has been enjoying success in its native South East Asia for a while now. It supports an impressive array of devices and platforms (though users on some devices can only attend meetings, not present in them), and we particularly like the simple drag-and-drop interface secretarial staff can use to build meeting packs. It integrates with SharePoint, Box and Dropbox too, so you can submit documents using your usual process.

iqBoard (IQ Group, pricing variable)

For those of you who want something a little less off the shelf, iqBoard is a SharePoint add-on developed by Australian financial experts IQ Group. They’ll tweak the functionality and appearance of the app to suit your meeting style, and as it’s SharePoint-based it shouldn’t struggle to integrate with your existing systems. However, your data is hosted in iqCloud, a cloud storage service based in Australia – a real stumbling block if you have restrictions on where your data can be held.

Ready to arm yourself with iPad? See our full range of special offers here.

Want to know more about how iPad could help your business? Give our team a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

NAB 2014: Sonnet to show Mac Pro rackmount enclosure with Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion system

NAB 2014: Sonnet to show Mac Pro rackmount enclosure with Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion system

As the broadcast world ramps up for NAB 2014, the pre-show announcements are getting more and more exciting. Today, Sonnet have announced an xMac Pro Server that will securely house the new, cylindrical Mac Pro and allow you to connect three PCIe expansion cards via Thunderbolt 2. It provides 5.25″ mobile rack expansion — all in a 4U enclosure.


IRVINE, CA — 26th March, 2014. At the 2014 NAB show in booth SL10824, Sonnet Technologies will unveil the xMac Pro Server Thunderbolt 2-to-PCI Express (PCIe) expansion system and 4U rackmount enclosure for new Mac Pro computers. Similar in concept to Sonnet’s award-winning xMac mini Server for Mac mini computers, the xMac Pro Server securely mounts the Mac Pro horizontally inside a specially designed modular enclosure that connects three PCIe 2.0 slots to the computer via Thunderbolt 2 technology, and provides space to install additional equipment in two 5.25″ mobile rack bays.

By supporting every Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe card available, the xMac Pro Server enables audio-video professionals to use the high-performance PCIe cards they need with the latest Mac Pro, which on its own lacks PCIe expansion slots. Supported cards include pro audio, Ethernet, and Fibre Channel, as well as SAS/SATA RAID controllers, and video capture and editing cards.

“With the success of our rackmountable xMac mini Server and Echo Express III-R Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion products, it was natural for us to properly address the need to efficiently rackmount the new Mac Pro and provide much-needed expansion capabilities,” said Robert Farnsworth, CEO of Sonnet Technologies. “Ever since the new Mac Pro was announced, our customers have been asking us for this product, and we believe they will be pleased with our solution.”

The xMac Pro Server’s heavy-duty steel outer enclosure provides secure mounting and protection for the Mac Pro, PCIe cards, and mobile rack devices installed inside. Occupying a 4U rack space (7″) and just 16″ deep, this system is perfect for use in a wide range of popular mobile racks, carts, and rack cases, as well as in a server room. The computer, PCIe card expansion system, and mobile rack devices reside in separate modules to simplify setup and maintenance. To make the Mac Pro fully rack- and road-ready, Sonnet constructed a protective cocoon for the computer out of formed steel and lined it with soft-touch padding to hold the computer firmly in place while safeguarding its lustrous finish.

The xMac Pro Server’s PCIe card expansion system incorporates ultrafast 20Gbps Thunderbolt 2 technology, providing sufficient throughput to support many of the highest-performing PCIe cards. The expansion system supports up to three full-length PCIe cards with one x16 and two x8 PCIe slots. Along with an integrated 300-watt power supply, the system includes a 75-watt PCIe power connector for cards that require supplementary power such as the Avid Pro Tools HDX or the RED ROCKET-X cards.

Mounted on its side inside the xMac Pro Server, the Mac Pro is kept cool by a quiet and efficient cooling system with an airflow path that remains unchanged and unobstructed according to Apple’s specifications. The PCIe card expansion system’s two remarkably quiet, temperature-controlled, variable-speed fans manage airflow to ensure cool, reliable operation in noise-sensitive environments.

The xMac Pro Server extends the Mac Pro’s Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and HDMI interfaces to panel-mounted connectors on the back of the unit for easy external cable connection, while a USB 3.0 interface and power switch are mounted on the front to enable the user to conveniently connect a USB peripheral and activate the computer’s power switch. The included Thunderbolt cable connects the Mac Pro to one of the xMac Pro Server’s two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and an included lock secures the Thunderbolt cables in place when connected to the expansion system. These features make the xMac Pro Server ideal for use in both fixed and mobile applications.

With the optional Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit, the xMac Pro Server provides space for additional expansion equipment. Users can install two 5.25″ mobile rack devices in the outer enclosure and connect them easily to cards installed in the PCIe slots. Without taking up additional rack space, the kit supports a wide array of devices such as an internal LTO tape drive, four or eight swappable 2.5″ SSDs, a Blu-ray burner, a Sonnet Qio MR pro universal media reader, or three swappable 3.5″ hard disk drives. The kit easily installs into the xMac Pro Server’s enclosure, and an integrated 100-watt power supply inside the kit powers the installed devices while its internal fan works to keep the devices cool. Sonnet will also offer preconfigured kits that include the mobile rack devices, PCIe card, and necessary cables.

Along with the new xMac Pro Server, Sonnet expects to display the RackMac Pro, its upcoming rackmount enclosure for two Mac Pro computers. Similar to the xMac Pro Server in many ways, the RackMac Pro offers users a simpler way to rack one or two Mac Pro computers in a 4U rack space. Pricing and availability will be announced at a future date.

The xMac Pro Server (part number XMAC-PS) has a suggested retail price of $1,499 and is expected to be available from 2nd June. The basic-edition Mobile Rack Device Mounting Kit, formerly named Echo Express III-R Mobile Rack Kit (part number EXP3FR-MRM), has a suggested retail price of $199 and is available now. An extensive list of PCIe cards compatible with the xMac Pro Server is available on Sonnet’s website, with the list continually expanding as more cards are tested and certified. Like Sonnet’s Echo Express family of Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion systems, the xMac Pro Server was designed, engineered, and built by Sonnet in California.

Want to know more about the latest from Sonnet? Give our team a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us Facebook

Upgrading Swansea City FC to HD and exceeding Premiership standards

Upgrading Swansea City FC to HD and exceeding Premiership standards

Having finished in the top half of the Premiership and qualified for the UEFA Europa league, Swansea City decided it was time to update their media infrastructure in order to give fans, pundits and their analysis team the best possible coverage of each game. Using Blackmagic Design’s production gear, they were able to update their network to HD, increase the number of video feeds they can deal with and how quickly they can be dealt with.

During summer 2013, Swansea City’s senior multimedia officer, Mark Williams, decided to update the AV system at Liberty Stadium. “It’s a relatively young stadium, and at the time there was no idea that we’d have Premiership football straight away, so everything was done in the most economical way possible. This only included provision for analogue systems throughout the stadium, as opposed to the digital we all know today.”

At the end of the 2013 season, Liberty Stadium could only send a single camera feed from their OB facilities to the rest of the stadium, and were struggling to keep up with the Premiership’s requirements.

“When we first came up to the Premiership, there was a requirement for 80 different cable runs between the stadium and the OB compound, whereas at the start of the season there needed to be 240 in place [to cater for more overseas television],” explained Mark. “We wanted to make sure that we took the specification from the Premier League and at very least we matched it. We were hoping to future proof the system for years to come.”

Managing feeds centrally using ATEM Television Studio

As well as increasing the stadium network’s capacity, Mark wanted to improve the efficiency of the media team’s workflow. They decided to centralise their entire system by creating a Fibre bridge between the control room and OB compound using a pair of ATEM Studio Converters and an SDI-to-Fibre converter.

“The ATEM Television Studio has been fantastic,” said Mark. “It gives us the ability to switch the video between different sources, and monitor all the various sources [which is important because] in addition to the video feeds coming in from the game itself, we’ve got cable runs going down to a couple of interview areas – two in the tunnels and one in our press room. So it’s allowed my desk to become a mini television gallery; I can monitor all the feeds, make sure everything is running smoothly and then switch stuff to the live TV in the concourse, or between the various computers that we’ve got in the office to record things.”

Helping analysis teams make the most of every game

Once broadcasters supply the feeds to the control room, Mark and his team use a pair of 16×16 Micro Videohubs to route the signals to over 130 press seats, 54 commentary positions, the team’s analysis department and their commercial arm.

“The strange thing about football analysis is that they need video in order to do their work, but that’s the one thing that they never get taught. We’ve had a lot of interns and new graduates, and they’ve learned a lot about the tactical analysis side of things, but not what they need to do in order to get that video content in the first place. So we worked with the coaches and the analysis department to make sure they get what they need, because regardless of what we do with the press, ultimately it’s what goes on on the pitch that’s key.”

In order to help the analysis team further, Mark’s next job is to move them from their current analogue system to an H.264-based one that allows them to capture HD feeds during international games, where no analogue signal is available.

“We use one of the Blackmagic Design’s H.264 Pro Recorders, and the great thing about them is that you can take any of the various formats that are out there, whether they be HD, SD, analogue, composite, you name it, and convert it into a feed that literally just goes into [any computer] via USB cable, which almost any machine can handle,” explained Mark. “It allows the team to have an entire game in full HD quality in a fairly manageable file size, which they can feed off to the coaching staff, copy to laptops or stick it on hard drives, so when they do their more detailed analysis afterwards, they’ve got the best quality that they can.”

Improving efficiency and speeding up recording workflows

“I realised one of the things we needed to do was make our workflow more efficient,” explained Mark. Because they never know how much time they have between two managers coming in to be interviewed after a game, the media team can’t work on the first interview until the second is complete – “we don’t want to waste time filming and recapturing, so we capture while we’re filming.”

Mark and his team now use Micro Videohubs to direct one interview feed to each of the media department’s Mac Pros, enabling them to record both independently while recording the OB compound’s post-match broadcast to an Atomos Samurai. “We’ve got multiple systems that allow us to keep working rather than sitting and waiting for something to happen. At the last game it went from an hour and 15 minutes from when the interview finished [to us having processed it] to something like 15 minutes.”

Finding an IT provider to help with the transition

“The very first Mac bought by the club was bought from Jigsaw24,” Mark said. “All the analysis software was on PC, but all the editing software was on the Mac, so we needed the flexibility of working between the two [which is only possible on Mac].

“We saw it as a good opportunity to build up a lasting relationship, because not only do Jigsaw24 do Macs, but they also do all the Blackmagic Design kit, they do camera equipment, and it made sense for us all to look for a company that was able to cater for all the various aspects of what we did.

“The sales team have been really helpful, and really patient with me as well, to be totally honest! And I spent hours on the phone with them, because they were our main go-between with Blackmagic Design, and were instrumental in being able to stretch our budget further than it was originally going to go.”

Continuing to move to digital

The system at Liberty Stadium is still evolving, and future developments include plans to add a giant screen to the stadium so that they can stream content to fans mid-game and, behind the scenes, to replace their analogue-to-digital converters with HyperDeck Shuttles, which will allow them to record ProRes straight to SSD.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Sassafras offers Ableton Live Networked License Server option

Sassafras offers Ableton Live Networked License Server option

Ableton have announced that the latest version of Live (that’s Ableton Live 9.1) can be used on networked computers using Sassafras KeyServer.

“With the release of Live 9.1, Ableton will introduce support for authorizing Live via Sassafras KeyServer in a networked environment,” said a post on their blog.

“Contrary to Live’s default ‘node-locked’ authorization system that fixes each installation to a specific computer, utilizing KeyServer allows for the ‘concurrent’ use of Live on networked computers. This is especially useful in institutional computer labs, for instance.”

What does that mean? Well, if you have five licences of Ableton and 15 computers in your lab, you’ll now be able to use Ableton on any of the 15, rather than just the five that they were originally installed on, as was previously the case. This means that students aren’t locked to one machine anymore – they can access their Ableton files from any machine in the lab at any time, which is great for anyone who wants to use the lab between lessons, or smaller schools where you may need to have two groups using the labs for different reasons at the same time.

For more information, call 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and FAQs, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Streamlining multisite working with Mac & iOS at NorthEdge

Streamlining multisite working with Mac & iOS at NorthEdge

NorthEdge use Apple’s Mac and iOS devices to ensure all their staff can access key applications, files and systems – no matter which site they’re on, or even if they’re on the move. See how they’re getting on in the video below…

Want to know more about Apple in business? Find out more about the Apple ecosystem and uses of Mac and iPad in business at our Apple in business site. Or if you have any questions, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email B2B@Jigsaw24.com.


JVC announce the GY-HM850 and GY-HM890

JVC announce the  GY-HM850 and GY-HM890


JVC have expanded their GY-HM series with two new cameras: the GY-HM850 and GY-HM890. These will be on show at this year’s BVE, where JVC will be talking you through how they plan to “set a new benchmark in ENG camera network capability”, but in the meantime here’s what you need to know.

The sensor

Both cameras feature three 1/3″ 2.07 effective megapixel CMOS sensors which can capture full 1920×1080 images. According to the official press release, “the imagers provide 12-bit processing, F12 sensitivity (50Hz) and excellent signal-to-noise ratio to produce superior colour reproduction.”

The lens

Again, both cameras boast the same glass, shipping with a 20x autofocus zoom lens provided by Fujinon. Its key features include auto-focus, built-in optical image stabilisation and chromatic aberration correction. It’s a 1/3″ bayonet lens which also includes manual focus and iris rings.

The recording workflow

The GY-HM850 and GY-HM890 record HD and SD as FCP X (.mov), XD CAM EX (.mp4), AS-10 (.mxf), AVCHD (.mts) and H.246 (.mov), meaning it’s compatible with most major NLEs. The official announcement goes on to reassure us that ‘footage can be recorded using MPEG-2 or H.264 compression at a variety of bit rates, frame rates and resolutions.”

Both the GY-HM850 and GY-HM890 have dual slots that can record to either SDHC or SDXC cards. A variety of modes are supported, including simultaneous recording to both cards for instant backup and relay recording for continuous shooting, alongside standards like interval recording, variable frame rate recording and a ten second pre-recording cache.

Streaming from the camera

Leading on from the GY-HM650, the GY-HM850 and GY-HM890 both feature FTP and GSM connectivity that allows you to stream HD footage directly from the camera. “We believe the future is with the live video streaming and FTP service fully integrated into the camera, as demonstrated with the GY-HM850 and GY-HM890,” explained Gustav Emrich, JVC’s European product manager. “With the recent advancements in GSM availability and bandwidth, service providers can deliver reliable high-speed connections that can support HD streaming with a single modem. This technology is here now, and will continue to progress and improve.”

Because of the GY-HM800 series’ dual codec design, you can now transfer files in the background while recording as normal to your other card. All you need to do is connect your camera to a GSM modem or WiFi adapter via USB, and then transmit your footage in realtime – a massive boon for any ENG crew. UDP, TCP, RTP/RTSP and ZIXI streaming protocols are supported. Advanced Streaming Technology is used to provide content-aware error correction, bandwidth feedback and reliable feedback on your streaming status.

JVC are using a mysterious, proprietary set of algorithms that ensure reliable transmission by maximising bandwidth, and can compensate for up to 30% packet loss.

Controlling your camera with WiFi

In addition to all this fancy live streaming stuff, with the GY-HM850 and GY-HM890, you can also do slightly more prosaic things like control your camera via WiFi from any iOS device, Android device, Mac or PC. You can also edit metadata on any of those devices, including GPS data.

Do you need the GY-HM850 or the GY-HM890?

While both models include genlock and timecode terminals, HD/SDI out, HDMI out, a 3.5mm jack and a four channel audio system with stereo AUX inputs and two XLR mic/line inputs with phantom power. They also have ten assignable buttons and focus assist. But only the GY-HM890 has the kind of pro features that make it ideal for multi-camera studio setups. You can add fibre or multi-core camera modules, and the camera is compatible with a full range of studio components, including studio sled, zoom and focus controls, viewfinders and box-style lenses.

LANC and remote controllers are supported on the GY-HM890, too, along with an HD/SDI pool feed input that can record and stream video and audio from another camera or SDI source during press conferences or other pool feed environments – all of which is a no on the GY-HM850. So if that’s where you’re heading, go for the 890.

Want to know more about JVC’s latest? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.
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