IBC 2013: Aja announce new Mini-Converters, IO4K Thunderbolt box and TruZoom

IBC 2013: Aja announce new Mini-Converters, IO4K Thunderbolt box and TruZoom

AJA are the first company to promise big things at this year’s IBC, with new 4K devices and converters promised, plus an all-round firmware change. 

What’s out now?

The new Ki Pro firmware we were promised a while back is now ready to go, and the public beta for AJA Control Room is about to hit Mac and Windows machines. There’s also a new Wirecast plug-in available now that will let you perform four channel multicam ingest or capture from 4K and UHD inputs with a bit of help from a Kona 3G card. The Kumo range is due a new, free firmware update that’ll add ganged connection for dual link, 2K or 4K work.

What’s coming soon?

IO4K

The IO4k is a AJA’s first Thunderbolt 2.0 device (20 Gbps! We still can’t get over this). Unsurprisingly, it’s designed to work with the new Mac Pro, and will be shipping around the same time that does – not that we could strongarm anyone into giving us thatdate. According to the official literature, “Io 4K offers a broad range of video and audio connectivity, supporting the latest 4K and UltraHD devices. AJA’s proven conversion technology allows realtime high-quality scaling of 4K and UltraHD to HD. Io 4K also seamlessly integrates with leading post-production and delivery tools such as Apple Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Creative Cloud, AJA Control Room, Telestream Wirecast 5 and more.”

The IO4K will work with anything from SD and HD to 4K and UHD, with HD to 4K scaling supported. Here’s how the connections look:

Connections available on the new AJA IO4K

Connections available on the new AJA IO4K

For the curious, the full list of supported video formats is below:

SD: 480p, 525i 29.97, 625i 25.

HD: 720P 50, 59.94, 60; 1080i 50, 59.94, 60; 1080PsF 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30; 1080p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94, 60.

2K: 2048 x 1080p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94, 60; 2048 x 1080PsF 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30

4K: 3840 x 2160P 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30; 3840 x 2160PsF 23.98, 24, 25; 4096 x 2160P 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30; 4096 x 2160PsF 23.98, 24, 25

For more specs check out the official AJA IO4K brochure.

TruZoom

This new application brings 4K to HD ROI scaling to the Corvid range, complete with its own hardware controller and realtime debayering for anyone using a Canon C500. EVS have adopted a Corvid Ultra/TruZoom workflow for all their scaling and selecting ROI in their replay systems, which is a pretty solid endorsement.

Key features include:

– Extensive I/O: 3G SDI, 4K HDMI output, embedded and AES audio (2-channel analog audio monitoring).

– Supports video formats from SD through to 4K at up to 60 frames per second.

– Color depth up to 16-bit half float RGBA with full color space conversion.

– Powerful, onboard Debayering for RAW workflows.

– High-quality AJA TruScale™ means incredible quality at any resolution.

– Two 4K-capable expansion slots for additional I/O or processing.

– Fast 8x PCIe 2.0 host connection provides 2500+ MB/s in each direction.

– 2RU form factor.

Find out more in the official AJA TruZoom brochure

All-new Mini-Convertors 

AJA have really quite a lot of Mini-Convertors and related accessories on the slate – so many that they’ve built an app to help you find the right one – but the ones that have really caught our eye are the 10-bit 4K2HD, which converts UHD or 4K to HD, and the new low-cost V2analog and V2digital,  which convert SDI to Analogue and Analogue to SDI respectively and come in at just $345.

See the full list here.

Want to know more about the latest from IBC? Take a look at our roundup post. 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.

Helping students with complex learning difficulties communicate at Great Oaks School

Helping students with complex learning difficulties communicate at Great Oaks School


After working with Creative Partnerships and the Department of Electronic Computer Science at Southampton University on a range of new technology trials, Great Oaks School joined Jigsaw24’s e7 Project to see if iPad mini would be able to help students with a range of learning and communication difficulties access the curriculum. The results? Increased engagement and communication, plus one or two surprises…

Download this case study as a PDF

Great Oaks School initially started using iPad as a communication device for SLD (Severe Learning Difficulties) students. Working with Erica Smith from Creative Partnerships and E.A Draffan from the University of Southampton, they attempted to find a digital alternative to their existing PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and to set up their own social networking system, which eventually became the Go!Platform.

“To make a new symbol for the PECS really is an onerous task,” explained Creative co-ordinator Roger Hardy, “because you have to go to the internet, you need to purchase a license to be able to use the symbols, get the symbol up, print it out, chop that out and velcro it both sides to create a set of new resources. That’s a lot of work for our support staff, so we were originally looking to see if there were ready-made apps on iPad that we could use to replace that.”

Despite some initial frustrations with the apps on offer – many used a different PECS symbol set to Great Oaks’, were “too American”, “gimmicky” or “made the massive assumption that SLD students would be able to navigate away from a page and come back” – Great Oaks’ team were impressed with the potential of iPad, and the volume of resources available through the App Store. They began looking into other potential uses for the device.

Joining the e7 Project

“I was looking on the Internet for organisations that were doing development work with schools and iPad, and Jigsaw24 came up,” said Roger. “Originally, we were told that because of the size of the school we didn’t really qualify. Then I got a call back saying that they were thinking about working with special schools and schools of different sizes and they were happy with what I’d put in writing already and thought it might be worth developing.”

After consulting with their e7 representative, Andy Cain, the Great Oaks team decided to opt for iPad mini during their trial, as these devices were not only easier for children to hold, but included a built-in camera that could be used as part of the school’s many cross-curricular creative projects, and would allow staff to take pictures of real items around school to use as PECS symbols.

Getting staff trained on iPad (and winning over parents)

A few of the teachers at Great Oaks already used iPad as their main device, so were receptive to twilight training sessions run by Erica Smith and creative trainer Ricky Tart. Other staff members were then encouraged to pass on what they’d learned to other users. But “the best way that we’ve found to get people’s skills up is to do projects,” Roger explained. “Working with creative people like Ricky Tart on film-making, animation and poetry projects has really helped to cement the learning that has taken place.

“A lot of our training has happened by one of us seeing what everyone else is doing and saying, ‘ooh, I’d like to do that,’ so we’ve trained each other up. It’s becoming more integrated in the school that we just use iPad. We’re making short films as part of our Arts Week, and we’re going to do that almost completely on the iPad. These films will be entered into several national competitions and really develop the skills of both pupils and staff. We might even use the minute-long preview template in iMovie for making the films. But obviously that is a great way to do training, and it lends itself not only to all the technical elements of making a documentary, but also uploading and editing it.”

Using iPad for project work has also helped the school win over parents who were unsure about the scheme. Using a combination of their e7 iPad mini deployment and the school’s social media site, Go!Platform, students were able to create and upload content for their parents to view before the day was over, so they could catch up with what their children were doing during the day.

“When we had the e7 iPad deployment we were encouraging the kids to film all the time,” said Roger. “I’ve got a three part film of a boy in my class making a clay rhino, and he’s not got great speech and language but you could see him developing as he went along, because he’d seen YouTube videos and he understood the format. It’s the unexpected stuff that’s been really amazing.”

Introducing students to iPad and launching the e7 Project

“When we did the first pilot project, using iPad as a communication tool, I was terrified,” admitted Roger. “One of the very first students looked at it – she’s not a verbal communicator and we thought she’d really like it, but she picked it up and just flung it across the room. But it survived and it’s fine. We’re still using that iPad!”

With the iPad crash-tested, Roger and the rest of the staff set about using sensory apps to acclimatise students with very high support needs to the new devices, and “by time we started the e7 Project with the iPad mini it was completely different. The kids could literally not wait because they’ve already seen iPad devices around the school. Andy from Jigsaw24 came down and we had all the tablets stacked up in a pile with a spotlight on them in the hall, and all the parents came in and [the pupils] couldn’t believe that they were actually taking these things away with them.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing, but Roger and the team found that the sense of ownership generated by a 1:1 scheme like the e7 Project meant that pupils took far better care of their devices than expected. “Of the 40 we had, none were broken. An iPad trolley that moves around and you log in and log out, that’s not really anything to do with you [as a pupil]. But having an iPad that’s yours and that you take home and do all your work on, compose your own music on, that was a huge development. We had one case where [one of our pupils with behavioural difficulties] was losing her temper, she knew she was about to trash the room and she asked someone to hold her iPad mini for her.

Improving speech and communication with iPad and game-based learning

While Great Oaks are still searching for their ideal PECS app (current favourite Widgit Go is still being developed for iOS) they’ve had some major success with MLD students, which Roger puts down to the more interactive, role-based nature of learning through apps and games. “There’s one particular child in my class who’s really weak on speech and language, ” he explained. “He loved [playing Minecraft on the iPad], joined in with everyone else, and as a matter of course if you see a group of children playing Minecraft together, they don’t stop talking and listening. Our speech therapist could not believe how much his speech and language had improved over that one term. And I had to say, to be honest this is solely down to Minecraft, because he wants to be a peer. We are developing a Minecraft after school club in the autumn of 2013.

“If you have a lot of learning difficulties and you’re used to not being able to keep up with everyone, and then suddenly when you immerse yourself in a game, you can become somebody who looks like everybody else, behaves like everybody else in the game. That alter ego is a brand new person. And I think that enabled him or encouraged him to work in that role, because there he was on an equal footing with the others and he had the cognitive capacity to do all the tasks in the game, so the only thing that was holding him back was his own lack of confidence. And now he doesn’t stop talking – he’s alive with it! He talks all the time about getting the iPad mini back.”

The future of Great Oaks’ iPad deployment

After three years of testing out various devices, Great Oaks have now purchased enough iPad devices for all Key Stage 4 pupils. All teaching staff have now been issued with an iPad mini as well. They’re also looking to revamp their Wi-Fi network in order to better support the 70 devices they do have, and are hoping that they’ll be able to access a broader range of apps and features when they leave their local authority and take control of their own IT setup later in the year. And would they recommend the e7 scheme? “I have! I’ve been recommending it to people I know at other schools and have been saying please get in touch with Jigsaw24, because I think maybe they might not be aware the e7 Project exists or think that they won’t qualify, but everyone should ask!”

Download this case study as a PDF

If you want to know more about the e7 Project or iPad in SEN, give the team a call on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter.

Get £500 cash back on Canon’s C500 (and the Ki Pro Quad!)

Get £500 cash back on Canon’s C500 (and the Ki Pro Quad!)

You can’t move for killer Canon deals at the moment. Not only are they giving everyone the chance to win an amazing racing day at Brands Hatch and now you can get £500 cash back when you buy one of our limited stock of exclusively-priced Canon C500 video cameras.  

We’ve got EF mount Canon C500s in stock for just £13,699 ex VAT – probably the best price you’ll find on the web – but you’ll need to act fast to get your hands on one, as we have very limited stock, and after that they go back up to a (still not unreasonable) £16,399 ex VAT. For a limited time, we’re also offering £500 cash back with this model. Who says no to £500 of free money?

Why choose the Canon C500?

The Canon C500 caught our eye because its four 1080p outputs can be combined to create a single 12-bit 4:4:4 or 10-bit 4:2:2 4K image, meaning that if you pair it with a 4K-capable 4K recorder it becomes a relatively affordable way to kick off your 4K workflow. But even if you’re not looking to do 4K work, it still stands up as a great camera for its price – for a start, you’re getting 12-bit 4:4:4:4 1080p, which is never to be sniffed at, especially if you do a lot of chroma keying or other detail-dependant image processes.

Another favourite feature of ours is the support for frame rates of up to 120p, even at higher resolutions, so we can continue to make the extremely dramatic slow motion videos you occasionally see scattered around the blog.

The combination of EF Cinema Lenses and Canon’s Log Gamma feature delivers the high quality video and wide exposure latitude required by digital cinematographers, while the range of source image formats supported means the C500 is equally at home shooting for cinema (using the DCI/SMPTE 2048-1:2011 standard) or television (using the Quad-HD/SMPTE 2036-1:2009 and ITU-R BT.1769 standards).

And what do you do with your £500? Well, there’s always the Ki Pro Quad…

As you can see from AJA’s demo clip and our previous over-enthusiastic posts, these two are perfect shooting partners, combining to give you the crisp 4K you want from a camera (and a recorder) you can afford. You can buy them as a pair at our website, and we’ll give you the £500 cash back on that bundle, too. Don’t say we never do anything nice.

Want to know more about the Canon range? 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.

Motivating students and liberating staff at Hertfordshire & Essex High School

Motivating students and liberating staff at Hertfordshire & Essex High School


In 2012, The Hertfordshire & Essex High School decided to roll out a 1:1 iPad scheme, starting with their 200 sixth form students. However, they were unsure whether to also offer the devices to staff, as teachers were already provided with a school-managed laptop. They worked with our e7 team to set up a term-long trial in which 40 key staff members were given an iPad.

Pupils in Hertfordshire & Essex High School now have their own iPad to use in lessons and at home

Pupils in Hertfordshire & Essex High School now have their own iPad to use in lessons and at home

“There’s obviously been a huge shift in focus away from desktop PCs towards mobile devices,” explained the school’s Strategic Leader of ICT, Ross Woodall, when asked about the decision to roll out iPad. “We wanted to have a device that was friendly and intuitive for the students to use, and we didn’t want to deploy a Windows-based device and make it part of our domain, because a lot of our services are delivered via web interfaces. We thought that iPad was well made and well supported, and it really engaged and enthused the students. We trialled it with a few students and they were particularly keen on iPad over any other device.”

Trialling iPad with staff

The school rolled out iPad to their sixth form first, partly due to the increasing popularity of the sixth form but also because “we really wanted to provide a device that they could embed in their lessons [from the start of the academic year].” However, after the initial rollout, it was clear that a few of the staff were a bit uncomfortable because some of them were less familiar with Apple products. “We decided to do the e7 trial so that the staff could get some hands-on experience with the iPad and see if it was beneficial as a teaching resource.”

Although our e7 deployments are usually split between staff and students, we were impressed by what the school had planned, and worked with them to identify 40 key staff members who would receive an iPad for a term. The school already provided staff with laptop computers, and one of the main aims of the trial was to assess whether providing an iPad as well would be an effective use of the school’s ICT budget.

“I think the e7 Project was very helpful in reassuring us that iPad for staff was a worthwhile expenditure,” Ross said. “Trialling the device enabled us to see the benefit it brought, while actually supporting the staff. This meant that they could make better use of the hardware with the students, as well as using it themselves. It meant that their teaching became much more mobile. They were able to teach out in the field or the playground if they needed to, and could do audio and video recordings in lessons with no planning needed in advance. Things like that were much, much less viable with a traditional laptop.”

Assessing Mobile Device Management (MDM) options

When the school joined the e7 Project, our team met with them to discuss how they planned to manage their iPad deployment. While many schools are locking down their ICT equipment and filtering the type of apps that their students can download, the Hertfordshire & Essex team decided that when it came to getting older students to buy into the scheme and use their devices as much as possible, freedom was key.

“We felt that in order for the students to really embrace the iPad and make sure it was something that they used constructively, it was more helpful to have the students register them to their own iTunes accounts as opposed to a centralised one that was managed by the school,” explained Ross. “We already have a system where students can borrow laptops, and we found that this was underused because there wasn’t the flexibility [to allow students to put] their software on the laptop they were using, whereas with the iPad, freedom has allowed them to become a much more valuable resource rather than just being another item to carry round. We have very responsible students, so I’m sure we have the odd game installed on the devices, but we see them being used a lot for taking notes and recording lessons (to video or audio). I think that’s really valuable for them, the ability to access the teaching outside of the lesson.”

“We felt that in order for the students to really embrace the iPad and make sure it was something that they used constructively, it was more helpful to have the students register them to their own iTunes accounts as opposed to a centralised one that was managed by the school,”

“We felt that in order for the students to really embrace the iPad and make sure it was something that they used constructively, it was more helpful to have the students register them to their own iTunes accounts as opposed to a centralised one that was managed by the school,”

Increasing usage while maintaining network security

The school’s tactic of keeping the iPad deployment relatively open seems to be paying off: they rolled out a new WiFi network to support the deployment, and of the 170 devices they handed out, Ross has seen “a hundred and twenty Apple devices connected all day, every day. We’ll have between 170 and 180 devices on the wireless network daily and seventy five per cent of them will be Apple devices.”

And how does the school cope with having so many unmanaged devices on their network? “We deliver a lot of our services through web interfaces: our VLE, our email and remote desktop access – all of that is accesible through a web browser. All devices on the wireless network authenticate against our Windows domain and all traffic is transmitted securely.”

Encouraging more mobile teaching and learning

When it comes to working with the iPad, the school is happy for students to take the lead, encouraging them to use the devices for general note-taking, research and organisation rather than structuring lessons round specific apps. “We have many teachers who have really embraced the iPad in their teaching,” Ross noted, “particularly the arts and the technology faculties. PE and music are using them a tremendous amount and designing lessons around them – I think a lot of that is to do with the touch interface and the flexibility and portability that you get with the device, which really feeds into those faculties.

“PE and sports sciences are now able to film people moving [using the iPad] and play that back so they can analyse it frame by frame. I think that sort of thing is much easier for the teacher compared with borrowing one of the school’s cameras and having to take it back to the classroom to analyse the video. [With iPad they are] able to record and play it back and have instant feedback. It’s also very nice that students can project via an Apple TV in the classroom to show what they’re working on at their desk. You get collaborative use of a projector, with everybody in a class connecting to show what they’re working on and share their ideas, and that’s really quite valuable.”

The school’s next initiative is to deploy Apple TVs throughout the school and use them to allow students to share their work with the rest of the class. “We held off on rolling them out originally because the firmware didn’t quite offer the level of security we wanted,” Ross explained. “We were worried that a student would be able to share content via an Apple TV from anywhere in the school unless there was some way of locking them down. But one of the updates has enabled us to have a PIN-based access to the Apple TVs [that prevents people without the right password from sharing content].”

Once there are Apple TVs throughout the school, Ross and his team plan to look at ways to allow multiple teachers to FaceTime with a class during lessons in order to explain key points. “For example, if we have a teacher who’s teaching some tiny aspect of computing in a design technology or graphics lesson, they’ll actually be able to FaceTime with one of the IT teachers over the projector to explain that specific point, so you can pull that expertise directly into the lesson.”

You can find out more about the e7 Project on Jigsaw24.com. Alternatively, get in touch on 03332 409 306 or at learning@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, reviews and app recommendations, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter

First impressions: Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera

First impressions: Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera

After the technical wasteland that was our unboxing video, our head of media and entertainment promptly took the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera off the marketing team and took it off to shoot some actual test footage. Along with his native and graded stills, here are a few of his field notes…

Blackmagic Design's Pocket Cinema Camera

Blackmagic Design’s Pocket Cinema Camera

The battery life

One of the most common complaints among our team and everyone else we’ve seen get their hands on a camera so far is that the battery life is incredibly short – you can burn through it in about 45 minutes, even if you’re not shooting continuously. Part of this is because the camera runs hot – it’s literally warm to the touch, and the supplied AC adaptor charges the battery on-camera, so it gets pretty hot when plugged in – and you’re definitely going to need two spare batteries and an external charger to get the most out of this camera. The supplied battery is 800Mah, so aim for one that’s 1200Mah to up your shooting time.

Another power-related quirk: there’s no charging light on the camera or the charger, so the only way to tell that you’re powering up is to turn the camera on and check there’s a charging message on the screen. Be aware that if you’re plugged in and the battery accidentally comes loose, it’ll display as being 100% charged, so do make sure you double check everything is secure.

Qualified cards

As Philip Bloom reported, the Pocket Cinema Camera doesn’t format your cards in-camera or delete any clips. However, we didn’t have any of the compatibility issues he mentioned, despite using PNY 90Mbps SDHC cards rather than the recommended SanDisk Extreme ones recommended in the manual. (Obviously we always recommend using the qualified cards where possible, though.) You’ll need to format your card as HFS+ or exFAT to use it with the camera, and you’ll want to keep a few on hand as the files are pretty big – the test footage was shot in ProRes 422 HQ and 1080p with two channels of audio, and that worked out at roughly 1.25GB per minute.

Supported formats and frame rates

The demo unit only ships with ProRes support – no DNxHD or RAW. The frame rates available are 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30fps, with timelapse supported in one to 50 second intervals, one to ten minutes or one to ten frames.

During the shoot

The test footage was shot outside on a very bright day, which meant that the screen was difficult to see (invest in a loupe or EVF while you’re waiting for your camera to ship) and the camera was incredibly sensitive, even when shooting with the lens closed right down and the shutter at 45 degrees (the auto iris is great, though). As with the original Cinema Camera, stabilisation is a must. The crop factor means that any movements you make are magnified 3 times, and unlike the original model, the Pocket doesn’t have a 2.5K frame that you can crop to HD to cut out some of that movement.

Panasonic lenses are a good bet with the Pocket Cinema Camera, purely because they have stabilisation functionality built in while other prime lenses don’t. We’d recommend investing in a 14mm or 20mm pancake lens, as not only will they have less effect on the camera’s balance, they’ve got the perfect focal length for the crop size and help keep the camera pocket-sized. (As our incredibly non-technical unboxing shows, without lenses it lives up to its name.)

Having zebras on the viewfinder was great and made it easier to make adjustments to the aperture and shutter angle to compensate for conditions – even with a Voigtlander lens shut down to F16 and with the shutter at 45 degrees, it was sometimes difficult to get a decent image. Happily, it was easy to recover the footage without much loss of detail, even though it was ProRes, and we’re excited to see what’ll happen when we get models that can shoot RAW.

One major weakness was the autofocus, which is not smooth and clearly very immature – future software updates will hopefully help with this. When shooting with an Olympus lens it was jerky and tended to hyper-extend the lens, though Panasonic glass fared better, even if performance was slow. If you hold down the focus button a focus view box will appear in the centre of your camera’s screen, and if you hold this down forever it will eventually focus. Double tapping the button turns on focus peaking, which was useful for manual focusing, and took some of the load off the very slow autofocus. The infinity focus also needs work, as it’s currently very soft.

And that screen? Perhaps controversially, we’d actually prefer it to be a touchscreen. There are no manual buttons to assign, so you can spend a lot of time cycling through menus to changes things like shutter angle, ISO and colour temperature. For future models a DSLR- type dial for ISO and shutter angle adjustment would be a great addition.

The results

Shown below are stills from the original test shoot, and the same stills after a very quick primary grade. For such a small camera in such an improvised shoot, the level of detail is fantastic, and any problems were easily fixed in post.

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera with Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95 shot at F2.8

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera with Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95 shot at F2.8

 

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera with Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95 at F4

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera with Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95 at F4

 

Flipflop, shot with Blackmagic Cinema Camera using Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm F1.8 on a OM to MFT adaptor

Flipflop, shot with Blackmagic Cinema Camera using Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm F1.8 on an OM to MFT adaptor

 

The obligatory cat shot, using Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera with Olympus Zuiko OM 28mm wide F2.8 on OM to MFT adaptor

The obligatory cat shot, using Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera with Olympus Zuiko OM 28mm wide F2.8 on OM to MFT adaptor

 

Want to know more about the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. Alternatively, take a look at our lovely new Blackmagic Design store. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter and ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Video: Unboxing Blackmagic Design’s Pocket Cinema Camera

Video: Unboxing Blackmagic Design’s Pocket Cinema Camera

When we received one of the first seven Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Cameras to hit the UK’s shores, we did what any right-thinking technical company would do – handed it over to our marketing department and let them thoroughly embarrass themselves while unboxing it.

Does it tell you much about what the camera can do? No. Are there numerous helpful tips on getting optimal performance from your Pocket Cinema Camera? No. But you do get to find out what a new Pocket Cinema Camera smells like, and there’s a funny bit with an SD card (our head of media and entertainment promptly took the Pocket Cinema Camera away to shoot some actual test footage, which we’ll have up soon, along with his notes).

You can pre-order the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera from our site now – and we’ll even give you £100 off if you buy a 14-140mm Panasonic lens at the same time.

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

Expansion pack brings new features to Autodesk 2014

Expansion pack brings new features to Autodesk 2014

It’s a good day to be an Autodesk user. Not only have the 3D giants revealed new features for their M&E range, they’ve also dropped the price of Entertainment Creation Suites and announced that you can upgrade to the Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate for 20% less

Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Mudbox get new extensions for subscription customers

Not content with rolling out service packs left, right and centre, Autodesk are introducing new features to their core VFX and 3D applications. Highlights include the addition of Python scripting to 3ds Max, and 3ds Max users with an Autodesk Subscription can also log in to the Autodesk App Exchange to download a separate update that adds stereo camera viewing functionality.

Maya users should brace themselves for the arrival of Xgen, the program Disney and Pixar developed to make their award-winning range of animated hair, fur and feathers. Autodesk have had Xgen on an exclusive licence for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve seen it take centre stage in one of their biggest applications, and we could not be more excited.

Mudbox has received a refresh of its retopology toolkit, so you should find it easier to force topologically symmetrical results or to mix topological symmetry with spatial asymmetry. There’s also a new caliper tool that enables you to measure the distance between two points on a model or along a curve.

To be able to access these new features you’ll need an Autodesk Subscription. If you’re not a subscriber already, you can get in touch with our team over at Autodesk@Jigsaw24.com for advice on how to go about adding Subscriptions to your existing licences.

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

 

Video: Using Maxon CINEMA 4D with Unity 3D

Video: Using Maxon CINEMA 4D with Unity 3D

If you saw the latest version of Unity at SIGGRAPH and are now wondering how to fit into your current games development or 3D modelling pipeline, Maxon have at lease part of the answer. They’ve put together this video demonstrating the workflow between their flagship kit, CINEMA 4D Prime, and Unity 3D. 

Want to know more about what you can do with CINEMA 4D R15? Get in touch with the team on 03332 409 306 or email 3D@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow us on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Transforming teaching with iPad at Jesmond Gardens Primary School

Transforming teaching with iPad at Jesmond Gardens Primary School

When their site was rebuilt as part of the Primary Capital programme, Hartlepool’s Jesmond Gardens Primary School moved from PC to Mac and launched an ambitious 1:1 iPad rollout across years five and six, as well as using the devices with EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) pupils. Deputy Head Paul Martindale explains how Apple technology is helping staff transform the way they teach.

‘Buying time’ by moving to Apple

In September 2011, Jesmond Gardens received funding for a new school build as part of the Primary Capital programme. As part of the refit, they decided to move from PC to Mac computers because, as Deputy Head Paul Martindale explained: “we liked the concept of being able to buy time, and we felt like the Apple equipment would let us do that because the software was very intuitive and the transitional workflow between apps was much easier. We felt the whole Apple solution enabled us to use technology as an aid to learning instead of a barrier.”

At the same time, the school introduced iPad to its EYFS classes, and rolled out a 1:1 scheme among older students in years five and six. “We felt tablets and smartphones were going to be part of our children’s lives soon if they weren’t already,” explained Paul, “and we wanted their education to be purposeful and real, so we tried to replicate some of the learning that goes on outside of school in our classrooms.”

EYFS pupils learn with iPad at Jesmond Gardens Primary School

EYFS pupils learn with iPad at Jesmond Gardens Primary School

This has also been reflected in the school’s approach to iPad training – they’re letting students take the lead, with appointed ‘Digital Leaders’ holding after school workshops every Wednesday to recommend apps and demonstrate new things they’ve learned to do on their devices. (There has also been a day’s training on iLife from an Apple Distinguished Educator, in order to “take away the fear factor” that surrounds new software.)

Aside from making classroom learning more relevant to the outside world, Paul and the rest of the staff saw another immediate benefit from using iPad: instant access to teaching resources through the App Store. “Very quickly what we noticed was the quality of materials that we could provide our kids with was 100 times better if we were using the iPad than if we were just using a traditional textbook approach,” he said. “We’ve also had brilliant outcomes from apps like Talking Larry and Puppet Pals with our EAL children and a couple of children we had who were diagnosed with selective mutism. The first time those children talked to our staff here was via those apps, so they certainly helped to break down barriers and to give children access to learning more quickly than they would have had usually.”

Embracing multi-modal learning and assessment with iPad

Staff at Jesmond Gardens now use iPad to carry out multi-modal lessons and assessments

Staff at Jesmond Gardens now use iPad to carry out multi-modal lessons and assessments

Another area which was unexpectedly transformed was assessment, where Paul and his team now have “more evidence than we know what to do with” thanks to the cameras and microphone built in to iPad. “We have visual and verbal dual feedback, which usually you wouldn’t have any evidence trail for, but now we Dropbox video files and explain everything.”

But it’s not just assessment where teachers are taking the initiative and using iPad to deliver more detail. Staff who were encouraged to take their iPad home and experiment with it soon found out that they could film themselves delivering lessons, effectively allowing them to have multiple teachers in a single classroom. “They’re a vain bunch,” Paul explained, “so the first time they got an iPad, they went home and videoed themselves. They loved the fact that activities that would have been independent could be structured by the teacher. They could [make videos saying things like] ‘Play the first 40 seconds of this video and then press pause and see if you can do activity one.’”

Staff have also embraced creating different inputs for different ability levels within mixed classes, so children with similar needs can sit together, share an iPad and work with a virtual teacher who gives them the level of support they need. “It means that while the teacher’s doing a traditional input, all those children are getting what they need too,” said Paul, adding that it was an initiative spearheaded by one of the teaching staff, who then passed the idea through the school. “The biggest successes for us have been when staff discovered things for themselves.”

Ensuring the setup is supported with Jigsaw24

As well as supplying iPad devices and accessories to Jesmond Gardens, we provide Jesmond Gardens and their Windows-based IT service provider with support for their Mac and iPad hardware and software. “Working with Jigsaw24 has been absolutely brilliant,” said Paul. “They can provide levels of technical expertise that we couldn’t hope to get to access otherwise, and have been absolutely brilliant about understanding the direction we want to go in from a pedagogy perspective, then making sure that the solution and the infrastructure help us to deliver that pedagogy.”

Want to know more about iPad in education? Get in touch with our team on 03332 409 333 or at learning@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Are you using the right hardware for your Autodesk software?

Are you using the right hardware for your Autodesk software?

Whether you’re sculpting in Mudbox, animating characters in Maya, whipping up pre-visualisations in 3ds Max or drafting like billy-o in AutoCAD LT, some of the basics of what makes a good Autodesk workstation stay the same (stock up on RAM and pack in as many cores as possible), but with so many different software suites and qualified components out there, it can be difficult to work out which workstation is best for you. To help make things easier, here are our top tips for choosing Mac and PC workstations for your Autodesk software of choice… 

For AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT for Mac users

We have good news: virtually any Mac will run AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT, from the beefiest of Mac Pros (ideal for handling big models quickly) to the smallest Mac mini (great for setting up freelancers with temporary desks, or if you want to take your setup with you to meet a client, as it’ll plug into any keyboard and display).

We know that a lot of users are sticking to their ageing Mac Pros in order to keep using NVIDIA Quadro 4000 or Quadro K5000 cards due to their higher fidelity, but the latest models have a huge amount to offer. With powerful 12-core CPUs on offer, the latest Mac Pro can help you create and navigate simulations far faster. The fact that the usual lumbering hard drive has been replaced by a fast, agile SSD means you’ll also be able to work with huge models far more efficiently.

If you’re really itching to customise your workstation, we’ll say it again: you can never have enough RAM. Get in touch with our team to find out how easy it is to pack your Mac with some extra memory.

For 3ds Max users

Autodesk 3ds Max 2014

If you’re working in a field like games development, odds are you’re using 3ds Max or a 3ds Max-based Entertainment Creation Suite (if you’re not, you might want to drop us a line…). You’ll want plenty of processing power, so we’d recommend opting for a 16-core HP Z820 for maximum responsiveness, although a high-spec Z620 will do the trick if you’re budget-conscious. While the new Mac Pros look promising, we’re still waiting for Autodesk to qualify a configuration, so if you need an interim Mac workstation go for a 27” Quad-core i7 3.4Ghz iMac with at least 8GB of RAM – preferably more.

If you invested in iMac before the latest Mac Pro was announced and are wincing at the cost of replacing them, remember that you can use the iMac screen as a second display and harness the internals as part of your rendering setup, meaning that artists can continue working on their Mac Pro while their iMac takes care of rendering work, rather than sitting and watching the progress bar.

When it comes to graphics, you need to bear in mind that Autodesk recently rewrote 3ds Max’s viewport engine, moving it over to DirectX from OpenGL. This means you’ll get faster performance for your money using gaming cards than you will using traditionally professional cards – which is great news for your wallet, and means you can design your work on the same card your end user will be playing it on.

One good choice for working with Autodesk software is NVIDIA’s 6GB GeForce GTX Titan, as it has the kind of stamina you usually only see in pro cards and so is least likely to melt under constant use. However, it’s not qualified yet and is also pretty expensive, so you might want to opt for Autodesk’s qualified card, the lower-spec 4GB GeForce GTX 680, which delivers a surprising amount of power for such an affordable card.

For Maya and Mudbox

For areas like graphics or post-production work, we’d typically recommend Autodesk Maya or a Maya-centric Entertainment Creation Suite (Autodesk’s Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate gets you Maya, 3ds Max, Motionbuilder, Mudbox, Softimage and Sketchbook Designer, so it’s a good option if you want to make sure you’re covered for every eventuality). The main difference between Maya and an application like 3ds Max is that you really need a NVIDIA Quadro card to get the best possible graphics performance. The Quadro drivers are optimised for Maya, and going for something like the ultra-powerful Quadro K5000 or the K2000 if you’re kitting out an assist station will give you the smoothest, most accurate viewport performance.

While we’re still waiting to hear how Autodesk plan to handle the dual GPU potential of the 2013 Mac Pro, if you need a Mac in an interim then your only real option is the top spec 3.4GHz i7 iMac, with 8 or 16GB of RAM depending on the size of project you think you’ll need to handle (this can always be repurposed as a combined second display and a render node if you decide to upgrade to a Mac Pro further down the line). For PC workstations, we’d recommend going no lower than an HP Z620 (ideally a Z820) with as many cores and as much RAM as you can pack in, as both will help you complete projects in the fastest possible time.

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