Sam Wilson, head of the media unit at Barnsley College wanted to update the college’s entry-level cameras but at the same time keep costs to a minimum. He wanted cameras with better quality and resolution that would also give a good impression to prospective students.
We suggested that the Sony HD1000 which, with its shoulder-mount design, has a similar form factor to the professional shoulder mount ENG cameras ‘seen on TV’. Using cameras like this is a sure-fire way to get students more enthusiastic and excited about what they are learning than learning with a handheld camera might get them – an idea which appealed to the college.
In order to add more options to the audio on the cameras, we equipped them with BeachTek XLR units. Improving the sound quality with microphones gave large expansion possibilities to the course from a teaching perspective: they were able to include professional audio roles in the production, involving more students and increasing the depth to the production areas they taught.
Since then, the college have added a number of Sony HVR-Z7 hybrid workflow cameras to their technology resources for the students to study solid-state workflows as well as tape disciplines.
When defence, security and aerospace specialists BAE Systems decided to add a demonstration room to their Advanced Technology Centre (ATC), they asked us to help them develop a versatile presentation solution that would support inventive and inspiring pitches. Our consultants helped them build two low-cost, high-impact video walls, along with standalone screens and a projection system.
Developing a presentation system
While the BAE Systems team knew they needed to improve their presentation setup, they didn’t have a clear idea of what was possible in their space and with their budget. They needed to be able to continue giving traditional, projector-led presentations, but also wanted to offer clients more dynamic, compelling visual demonstrations. After discussing a range of different solutions with the BAE Systems team, our consultants recommended a software-driven video wall, coupled with two standalone screens and a high-end projector. This setup would allow BAE Systems to bolster presentations with super widescreen video content as necessary, but would still be relatively simple to operate.
Building a video wall
We installed two sets of four Samsung HD monitors along two walls of the ATC’s presentation room. Though the screens weren’t designed to work together, we were able to use a combination of multi-head Matrox graphics and Scala’s industry-proven content management system to sync each group of four, so a single continuous, vey wide resolution image could play across all of them without being stretched or distorted.
The system was based around high-end Blue Chip PCs. As well as acting as the central control system for the screens and being the place where new content was uploaded and scheduled, the PCs would also be the place where BAE Systems staff put together content. Our design team produced some initial animated content to show what the screens were capable of, and designed a handful of templates for new content that the BAE Systems team could use to present their own media. We >then provided the BAE Systems team with training so that they could start work on their own video, animations and virtual models.
Finding the right projection solution
Alongside the video walls, we installed a Christie LX-505 projector. This was ideal for a number of reasons – its high lumen count meant it was bright enough to use in a lit office, and its long-life bulb and relatively low maintenance demands meant it had a very low TCO. We fitted unobtrusive Bose Freespace ceiling speakers into the ceiling so that the presenter (and the soundtrack to any screened content) could be heard in high quality at all times without the room appearing cluttered with hardware.
Enabling touchscreen control
As well as ensuring the projection system would be able to accept content from any visitors’ laptops, we set up an AMX-based touchscreen controller that would let the BAE Systems team control their presentation systems from a single, central interface with a user-friendly GUI. This way, there were fewer devices for the tech team to manage and less for any new users to learn. We also provided training on the Scala software and Blue Chip hardware, and integrated two standalone screens that were left over from BAE Systems’ previous system into the new one, so none of their legacy technology went to waste.
Responses to the new system
“Because we needed a closed display system, we had very different requirements from a typical digital signage setup,” said Chris French, BAE Systems’ Brand and Creative Media Consultant. “But with support from Jigsaw24 we were able to come up with an ideal solution. Their installation team were very good, especially as they were working around building contractors at the time of the install.”
The presentation room has become popular with employees showing new clients BAE Systems facilities and capabilities, and the system’s usability and flexibility have ensured that it has stayed in regular use. BAE Systems have been so pleased with the response from clients and employees alike that they’re now considering rolling out a similar system at other sites, using the Advanced Technology Centre as a blueprint.
“Jigsaw24’s installation team were very good, especially as they were working around building contractors at the time of the install. Whenever a problem cropped up – as they inevitably do on any install – they were quick to get the right kit in and carry on. The training Anthony gave us was just right for getting us started and getting content created for the system.” – Chris French, Brand & Creative Media Consultant BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre
Yep, that’s right: Canon are finally accepting the fact that the still and video camera markets are slowly merging, and will add clean HDMI output to the 5D MkIII in a firmware update. Due in April, the update will also bring improved AF functionality, and there’s even 25p support coming to the 1D-C.
“When shooting video, HDMI Output makes possible the recording of high-definition uncompressed video data (YCbCr 4:2:2, 8 bit) from the EOS 5D MkIII to an external recorder via the camera’s HDMI terminal,” Canon’s press team inform us. “This, in turn, facilitates the editing of video data with minimal image degradation for greater onsite workflow efficiency during motion picture and video productions. Additionally, video being captured can be displayed on an external monitor, enabling real-time, on-site monitoring of high-definition video during shooting.”
All of which we think is pretty awesome. “It’s good to see the 5D return to the top of the pile,” says James Graham, our camera expert and resident 5D enthusiast. “The 5D handles high ISO shooting far better than the Nikon D800 and, although I haven’t got the chance to try out the Sony A99 yet, the 5D has the better sensor.”
AF to work up to f/8
Leading us further down the dark road that ends with cameras becoming sentient robots whose operators exist purely to give them the occasional light dusting, Canon are also enabling autofocus up to f/8. “Even when the EOS 5D MkIII is equipped with an extender and lens making possible a maximum aperture of f/8, the firmware update supports AF employing the camera’s central cross-type points (currently compatible with maximum apertures up to f/5.6). Accordingly, the update will allow users to take advantage of AF when shooting distant subjects, benefitting sports and nature photographers, particularly when using telephoto lenses.”
25p (and possibly 8K) for the EOS-1DC
Also due in an April firmware update is 25p support for the 4K-capable EOS 1D-C, meaning you’ll be able to use it to shoot content at the UK broadcast standard. Huzzah! There are also rumours that Canon plan to use the 1D-C’s super fast buffer to allow you to record short bursts of 8K footage. Admittedly, not many filmmakers will be interested in shooting six seconds of 8K, but if you’re using the 1D-C primarily as a stills camera, having the flexibility to capture those incredibly detailed video clips will be fantastic. Here’s hoping Canon confirm soon…
Want to know more about Canon 5D MkIII or 1D-C? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. To keep up with all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.
The EBU have awarded douze points to the JVC GY-HM600 and GY-HM650, with both cameras being approved for broadcast journalism use within the European Broadcasting Union, a network of 75 national broadcasters from Europe and affiliated states (think of the Eurovision lineup and you’re just about there).
The cameras are approved for journalistic work (Tier 2J) as is, and can be used for general HD long form work (Tier 2L) if you use an external recorder to get up to the 50MBps mark.
Gustav Emrich, European Product Manager for JVC Professional said: “We are delighted that the GY-HM600 series has easily met the EBU standard requirements for broadcast use. We are pleased with the reports for these cameras, which were designed to be innovative new tools for mobile news gathering in challenging situations. JVC believe that the 600 series cameras are a big step forward for both us and our customers in terms of ease of use and versatility, as well as features and functions, and EBU approval is a validation of this.”
This means that you can now add rich media like YouTube clips, Skype calls or speakers in video conferences to your TriCaster inputs and stream them as part of your final presentation, in realtime, with full audio, all over iVGA. You can also record the audio and video as a QuickTime, MPEG-2 or AVI file to play back later.
Another key feature is the ability to choose exactly what it is you’re sharing over iVGA. You can now isolate a region of the screen, a specific application, a webcam feed or a child window as the area that you need to send, and then share that with TriCaster without anyone else seeing the rest of your screen.
iVGA PRO is currently Windows only (we’d recommend giving AirPlay a go if you’re using a Mac), and NewTek recommend you only use it on 64-bit systems, reverting to original recipe iVGA if you’re using older systems.
Anyone who thought they’d missed the deadline to take advantage of Avid’s ISIS shared storage trade-in offer, which lets your trade in your existing Unity or LANshare seats for discounts on ISIS units, will be pleased to hear that the deadline has been extended.
You now have until March 15th 2013 to hand over your old shared storage and receive a shiny new Avid ISIS 5000 in return, complete with FlexDrive resource management, support for simultaneous access to shared files and compatibility with Adobe’s Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut Pro in case any of your artists need to retain their non-Avid workstations.
However, if you’ve decided to leave FCP for Media Composer, you’ll be pleased to hear that anyone who’s crossgraded ten or more seats can now get themselves an ISIS 5000-32TB Primary engine with a year of ExpertPlus support and hardware support from Avid for just £35,900 ex VAT. Alternatively you can get an ISIS 5000-32TB Primary Engine with a year of Elite support for £36,900 ex VAT if you’re prone to breaking things and would prefer to have more comprehensive cover.
You can also pick up a great deal on individual seats of Symphony. Pick up Symphony 6.5 with a Mojo DX for just £3999 ex VAT (that’s 40% off!) or with a Nitris DX for just £5799 ex VAT(also 40% less than usual). That means you get all the functionality of Media Composer, plus secondary colour correction tools, the Boris Continuum Complete plug-in collection, universal mastering tools and your choice of reliable I/O device, all without making your accountant weep. Who says no to that?
While transitioning specialities from technology to sport, Babington Community College were looking for ways to embed ICT in all subjects and help students with English as an Additional Language [EAL] access the curriculum while their spoken and written English was still developing. Their PE faculty found the answer to both in a multicam sports monitoring system. Installed in the college’s badminton hall, it allowed pupils and members of local teams to review their badminton technique from multiple angles, and use that visual feedback to improve.
As an inner city school with a high percentage of SEN, Free School Meals and EAL students, Babington Community College faces several challenges when it comes to helping students with a limited understanding of spoken and written instructions access the curriculum.
“As a progressive school, we are always looking for new ways to develop the curriculum, but more important is the range of methods we use to enable students to access the curriculum and self-learn,” explained business manager Ray Allsop. “Having recently changed from a technology to a sports college, we wanted to introduce lessons learned from our technology days to develop our sports facilities and break down some of the perceived barriers.”
Designing and building the system
Babington’s PE team had one camcorder that they were using to record students practising, but were becoming frustrated with its lack of flexibility. “With a single camcorder system, you have to stop recording and play the tape back, and while you’re doing that you’re missing other things that are going on in the lesson,” explained Ray. When they partnered with the Leicestershire Badminton Association to refurbish their badminton hall, the faculty were determined to find a better feedback system. “We were very clear from the start that [in the new system] we wanted a recording tool that was easy to use, and had the means to show students multiple angles of the same position.”
Working with Sony specialists ProActive and solutions architects from Jigsaw24’s Media & Entertainment team, Babington was able to develop a four-camera setup that allowed them to record students from multiple angles and capture all the footage so that it could be used in later assessments, and simultaneously use NewTek’s 3Play system to play back clips in slow motion in realtime.
“Babington College and Sport England, who were helping fund the build, had a very progressive vision,” explained Jigsaw24 consultant Anthony Corcoran. “It wasn’t just a question of choosing the correct piece of kit – it was building a system that would fulfil their idea. On the one hand, the system was directly used to encourage and inspire students, but it also had to be sophisticated enough for coaching professional badminton players who needed to analyse and hone their technique. Then, it had to be robust enough to be placed in a sports hall, where it would be used all day by pupils, and then at evenings and weekends by pro players.”
Ultimately, what we built with them was a realtime, slow motion replay and capture system, with remote control high definition cameras. For Babington, the real key feature was the ability
to pause or play back a stream of footage while still recording, so PE staff wouldn’t have to miss filming chunks of any given lesson. “The 3Play system was chosen for its ability to continuously record sports in HD quality, and allow us to review performance and show clean movements from various angles, enabling students to learn from their own play, and see how theirs differs from that of peers and professionals,” said Ray.
To make it easier for teachers to share techniques with the whole class, Babington also installed two large screens in the badminton hall. This means that whole classes can watch a single clip together in order to learn or critique a specific move, and that groups of students can watch footage back together and peer review one another, or check the progress of students they are coaching as part of their GCSE course.
Bringing staff up to speed
Jigsaw24 ran a training session with staff from Babington and one of their partner organisations, the Leicestershire Badminton Association, with whom they share their badminton facilities. “You can master the system easily,” said Ray. “I’m far from an IT whiz, but we had a short session where we were shown how to use it, and I picked it up straight away and felt very comfortable with it.”
The PE faculty have been equally enthusiastic. “They’re extremely excited about developing their skill sets,” said Ray, “but it’s also about the finished product that they can offer to students now, and opening up access to sport at a whole new level. If students don’t understand the verbal or written instructions, we can still make an impact and move them on using the equipment we have here.”
Increasing the college’s potential
Once staff are used to the system, Babington’s team plan to allow students to use the system to review their own work or as a review tool for the coaching and refereeing elements of their PE GCSEs. “A lot of the students are very IT literate, so a piece of kit like this is actually second nature to them,”said Ray.“The system offers them a new style of sophisticated learning tool that allows them to access sport in a quicker timeframe, and also increases engagement.”
Since the refurbishment of the badminton hall, the college has seen interest in the sport skyrocket, especially as an extracurricular option. Ray is also optimistic about the multicam system’s impact on the college’s relationship with the wider community. “There is every possibility that it could increase our lettings profile, because what we’re offering is a more bespoke package for those who want to come and train. A lot of people use school sports halls as a social venue, not because they want to train, but I see this as one part of the market where we have the opportunity to change the context of the users.”
The college is even considering using part of its BSF funding to install a second system in its multi-purpose sports hall. “It’s still early days for us,” Ray told us, “but there is every indication that the system may surpass our expectations in terms of what we can achieve.”
“To our knowledge, there aren’t any other colleges with this kind of technology,” said Anthony. “It took investment and commitment on behalf of both Sport England and Babington Community College. It was a brave move – and it’s one that’s paid off. Both parties had the foresight to insist that the system was future proofed and easily adjustable, so they can expand the system if they ever need to.”
“The system is opening up access to sport at a whole new level… If students don’t understand the verbal or written instructions, we can still ” make an impact and move them on using the equipment we have here.” – Ray Allsop, Business Manager, Babington Community College.
“Staff have found the system innovative and ideal for assessment at a variety of levels. It also works as a fun way to motivate students with the instant feedback they receive and as a result, it has allowed us to extend leadership opportunities within lessons.” – Matt Byrne, Faculty Leader PE, Babington Community College.
We’ve not talked much about NVIDIA’s GTC in previous years, as it tended to focus on using NVIDIA GPUs to accelerate supercomputing and scientific calculation. However, recently NVIDIA have made a huge push to bring the latent power of their GPUs to bear in the M&E space, where they can be used to accelerate several types of workflow (simulations, rendering and realtime play back of video content among other things). To reflect that, they now have several M&E industry power houses speaking at GTC, making it a very interesting prospect for those looking to leverage NVIDIA hardware to speed up their workflow.
Topics on the slate so far include:
High frame rate and 4K workflows (presented by no less than VFX pioneer Douglas Trumbull)
Using GPUs to speed up work on pre-viz and dailies
Image processing, physics-based effects and GPU rendering in VFX workflows
Live broadcast graphics and augmented reality
Interested? You can register here, and snag up to $250 off the ticket price if you book before January 20th.
Want to know more about GPUs in your workflow? 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.
Storage stalwarts Sonnet Technologies have just announced a new 1U rackmount, RAID 5 system, the Fusion R400S. With four drives and an eSATA interface, the Sonnet Fusion R400S offers single-cable-to-host connectivity over eSATA and “integrates a high-performance RAID controller for maximum versatility, critical data protection, and speedy file transfers” according to the Sonnet press squad. It’s also equipped with low-noise fans for those of you in noise-sensitive environments.
The key specs
The Sonnet Fusion R400S supports RAID 0, RAID 5, RAID 10, JBOD and Clone modes, all of which can be configured using the R400S’s internal RAID controller. According to the official Sonnet specs: “Configurations include maximum capacity (RAID 0), data protection with optimum performance (RAID 5), most concurrent audio file editing (JBOD), or fast cloning of up to four drives concurrently (Clone mode) when it is necessary to send each drive to a different location for security. Selecting the RAID mode requires no application software and is simply a matter of setting a switch. Onboard RAID support eliminates the need for a specialized RAID controller card. For those who prefer to configure with separately sourced drives, Sonnet also offers a 0TB version of the Fusion R400S RAID, enabling the customer to purchase separately the drives that best suit their needs.”
Capacity-wise, the R400S is available in 8TB, 12TB and 16TB configurations. When coupled with a Sonnet eSATA controller (they used the Tempo SATA Pro 6Gb PCIe card), its data transfer speeds at RAID 5 can hit 240MBps for reading data and 220MBps for writing. Sonnet are clearly shooting for the creative market, using these nippy transfer times to support multistreaming of ProRes 422 HD, uncompressed 8-bit 1080i HD, DV, HDV and DVCPRO video files. They also claim higher data transfer rates and additional workflow capabilities are possible when two or more systems are RAIDed together on the same SATA controller, though we’re yet to test this.
“We are pleased to offer this high-performance 1U, rackmount, four-drive RAID storage system at such an affordable price,” said Robert Farnsworth, Sonnet CEO. “The Fusion R400S RAID is the perfect complement to our xMac mini Server PCIe 2.0 expansion system/1U rackmount enclosure for Mac mini to support our small-to-medium-sized business and education customers.”
After a heck of an IBC showing, Softron are up to their knees in updates, new releases and intriguing theories about what you should be doing with your Mac Pro. We thought we’d do you all a favour and round up all the news into a single, easily digestible blog post. Go on, make yourself a cuppa, kick back and scroll down…
Showcased at IBC 2012, Multicam Logger does pretty much what it says on the tin. It logs which inputs are being used when in a live multi-camera production and uses the log to create a multi-cam clip that can then be polished in post before it’s broadcast or put online for on-demand consumption.
Although it’s designed primarily for use with Blackmagic Design’s ATEM range of production switchers, Multicam Logger can be paired with Softron’s GPICommand2 and then hooked up to your existing switcher. The resultant multi-cam clips will work in FCP X, Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe Premiere Pro.
On the Air Studio
OnTheAir Studio is Softron’s Retina Display-ready radio streaming solution. It allows you to share your radio content directly with SHOUTcast or Icecast streaming services.
With a built-in Multiband Compressor, the ability to schedule 24/7 unattended playout, support for standard keyboards or MIDI controllers and the ability to change the volume on tracks, playlists or outputs without an external audio mixer, OnTheAirStudio offers a comprehensive set of features for anyone who wants to begin streaming their own radio content. It’ll even auto-generate ‘mix points’ when the volume of your output dips below a certain level, ensuring there’s never any silence as you switch between tracks.
Thunderbolt expansion chassis
At IBC, the Softron stand played host to an old favurite of ours, the Sonnet xMac mini Server, which they used to play four streams of HD from a Mac mini (with a bit of help from a Decklink Quad). For the uninitiated, the xMac mini server turns your Mac mini into a 1U rackmount server solution, complete with expansion slots, allowing you to use Thunderbolt-aware cards from AJA, Blackmagic Design, Matrox and more with your Mac mini.
They were also quick to big up the Sonnet Echo Express Chassis which, according to their press team, is “the ideal solution for mobile configurations with a laptop. We did run tests with this chassis together with the latest MacBook Pro Retina and the results are pretty impressive. Here is what we could achieve:
• 4 HD output with OnTheAir Node and OnTheAir Video
• 3 HD input with MovieRecorder (on a laptop!! incredible!!)
• 2 HD output with OnTheAir Video Express. (Note that playing out multiple streams with OnTheAir Video Express is still not recommended as there is no buffering as there is with our playback engine, but we could see a major difference when using an SSD; files playing very quick.)”
Total cost per CPU
After a bit of a barney with another vendor about whether it was cheaper to use a Decklink Quad and a four input Mac Pro or use four Mac minis and give each channel a dedicated CPU, Softron have released this handy price comparison chart. Granted, it’s in dollars, but it should still help you work out a round guide to whether a four CPU or a single CPU is going to work out better for your budget (don’t forget to factor in support!)