Apple have released OS X 10.8.3, a free upgrade to Mountain Lion that adds Boot Camp support for Windows, improves Mail support for Exchange users and introduces compatibility with NVIDIA’s latest must-have GPU, the Quadro K5000.
As well as practical additions like Boot Camp support for Windows 8 and Macs with 3TB hard drives (whoop!), new features included in the OS X 10.8.3 update include the ability to redeem iTunes gift cards in the App Store using your Mac’s camera, improved reliability for those of us who use our Microsoft Exchange accounts in Apple Mail and more reliable Xsan performance.
Many of the OS X 10.8.3’s bug fixes will put a spring in your IT admin’s step: they’ve fixed issues that caused Active Directory accounts to be locked out after accessing the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences, and one that caused delays when you logged on to Active Directory on a high latency network.
Our resident audio geeks were pleased to hear that Logic Pro should no longer stop responding if you use certain plug-ins, and the strange audio stutter some 2011 iMacs have been experiencing should also be gone. And for those of us who need to be in constant contact with the world, Messages should now appear in order after our Macs wake from sleep mode, and Contacts should now print addresses in the right order and location. Hooray!
Telestream have just announced the arrival of Episode 6.4 – a free update to Episode, Episode Pro and Episode Engine v6 encoding solutions. The goal for this latest release? To make it easier for you to integrate Episode Engine into your workflow and handle high volume workflows.
Episode v6.4: the highlights
This latest update is optimised for higher volume workflows, so anyone who’s thinking of upgrading to Pro or Engine from their current Episode setup should definitely give it a look. It adds support for .SCC and H.264 web captions, allowing you to insert closed caption data into MPEG3 and H.264 video streams – you can also add CLAP data to .MOV outputs. A new video rotate filter adds more filters to your inbox, allowing your to rotate source footage 90 degrees or 180 degrees, and flip it horizontally or vertically.
Workflow-wise, the most pleasant addition is the fact that you can now recreate sub-folders scanned via a monitor within the deployment root folder, and automatically mirror folder structures. There are also 20 levels of priority in Episode 6.4 versus three in Episode v6.3, while your workflow history, workflow displays, maximum bandwidth control and API performance have all been given a bit of a spruce.
Ableton have just launched Ableton Live 9 and, along with it, their very first controller. Called Push, the controller lets you use pressure and velocity controls to mix, step sequence and navigate loops. The (slightly spooky) demo video makes it look pretty intuitive and pleasingly like something out of Star Trek, both of which win it points with the Jigsaw24 team.
The controller is powered by Ableton Live 9, a recording solution that combines the usual timeline-based view that you find in the likes of Logic and Pro Tools software with a more intuitive, improv-friendly ‘Session View’, which is designed to let you create tracks from scratch without getting caught up in the software (it also helpfully provides you with thousands of loops, synths and instrument packs). If you’re a busy person, you can see a detailed comparison of the different versions of Ableton Live 9 here, or read on for a bit about the new additions.
New to Ableton Live 9 is the ability to record parameter changes and edit automation curves directly in Session View, giving you extra flexibility. You can also move projects between Session View and Arrangement View with a single click, or drag and copy individual instruments from one to the other to switch between improvising and arranging.
Ableton have also included a new browser that makes it easier to find your sounds and share them with any drive – you can store them across multiple drives now too, which is nice to know if your hardware is less than reliable and you don’t want to lose any of your library should a drive go down.
In addition to practical stuff like browsers and simple view switching, Ableton have added new MIDI controls that let you extract music from your samples and build on them. You can take the original musical stems using Harmony-to-MIDI or Drums-to-MIDI, then remix them. Or, if you’re more of a toe-tapping, tune-whistling sort of guy, use Melody-to-MIDI and Drums-to-MIDI to record voices, instruments or sounds and covert them into easily mixable MIDI clips.
As the first quarter of 2013 winds down (where did that go?) we say goodbye to some fantastic offers from Avid. But if you missed out on their massive Symphony 6.5 discount because you weren’t sure Symphony was for you, we’ve got good news: there’s a free trial out.
You can now head over to the Avid site and download a free 30-day trial of Symphony 6.5 or Media Composer 6.5. Okay, so you don’t get access to Symphony’s full complement of Boris Continuum Complete plug-ins, but you can get used to massive timesavers like ScriptSync and PhraseFind, and if you have a Nitrix DX interface you can use the Universal Mastering toolkit to give your projects an extra polish.
As if being approved for journalistic and long form broadcast use by the EBU (albeit with help from an external recorder in the latter case) wasn’t enough, JVC’s GY-HM650 looks set to become the new darling of the BBC News team.
Over the coming year, the Beeb are looking to buy over 500 of the GY-HM650 and distribute them to news crews both in the UK and abroad. John Kelly, JVC’s General Manager for the UK & Ireland, Scandinavia and MEA commented: “We are delighted by the success of the GY-HM650 camcorder. Following on from the recent announcement that the GY-HM600 series camcorders meet EBU requirements for journalism, this provides further confirmation of its suitability for broadcast news production.”
When they decided to roll out 1700 company iPhones in a single day, all with their company app pre-installed, LNT Group knew they would need a formidable Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution. We set them up with the ideal solution for their deployment, and helped them get the best price for their ever- growing number of licences…
Making staff feel like ‘part of the family’
Comprised of five different companies and delivering everything from care homes to race cars, LNT Group have grown from a family company to a firm of almost 2000 employees. “We decided to roll out smartphones now because as our company grows across the UK, we’re finding it harder to make people feel like part of the core business, part of the family here at LNT,” explained Leigh Ellis, LNT Group’s communications and marketing developer. “One of the ways we thought we could do that was to give everyone in the company a mobile device, so that they could be involved in the company remotely.”
Leigh and his team chose iPhones because existing users in the company had fed back that “iPhone was really easy to use, people just seemed to be able to pick them up and use them straight away, without the need for much training.” There was also the feeling that a smartphone would “feel like a present” more than a standard device, and give employees the inclusive morale boost that LNT thought was needed.
Developing an in-house app
As well as handing out iPhones, the company decided to build their own in-house app, iLNT. “Although we could probably have found a solution of apps that worked together to create what we needed, we thought that if we created one app that had it all in one place, it’d be much easier for staff to use,” explained Leigh. “Some of the things that people can use our app to do include receiving the latest news and updates from the group, so that they know what’s going on here at head office and feel like part of the family. We also wanted them to be able to communicate with us, and again that’s another feature of the app. They can send us suggestions, they can send messages direct to the chairman as well.”
As well as keeping staff up to date with the latest company news and allowing them to send key messages to individuals or sectors within the group, iLNT allows staff to clock in and out, book holidays and perform other HR tasks – all of which helps to encourage staff to use their phones every day and therefore give LNT Group the best return on their investment.
Deploying 1700 devices
The LNT Group’s chairmen felt that making an event of the iPhone launch and giving everyone in the organisation their device on the same day was key to creating a buzz about the scheme and making sure staff were excited by it. However, it meant that LNT Group’s eight-strong IT team would have to roll out 1700 devices at once, register them to the company, install iLNT on each and handle any teething problems – all in a single day.
Leigh immediately began comparing MDM solutions to find one that would ensure the rollout went smoothly. “I compared about 20 different companies in the market. I managed to narrow it down to about five that had all the features that we’d need, and the one that came out on top from an ease of use point of view, as well as many other things, was Absolute Manage. It really seemed to do everything we needed, and not only that but it did everything we’d have liked it to do as well, and it did it in an easy to use package.”
For the initial rollout, the key thing about Absolute was that everything could be automated. The iPhones would be enrolled on the group’s system automatically, and LNT could create their own app store to push out iLNT updates to employees who didn’t have iTunes accounts. “Originally we thought there might be some problems with it taking too long on each individual enrolment,” explained Leigh, “but we went to Absolute support about this and they were very forthcoming in giving us a solution where we could speed it all up and automate the process.”
Since the rollout, Absolute Manage MDM has continued to shine. “We can track all the devices, we can make sure that they’re all safe, and we can make sure that everything that goes out to the phones is secure and restricted,” said Leigh. “And in fact, if anyone’s not using their phone we can see that [using Absolute Manage MDM’s use tracking tools] and go to them and say, ‘what do we need to do to get you using your phone?’ It might just be a case of training, or it might be the case that they need something else on the phone so they can use it better.”
Supporting and maintaining the deployment
“The great thing about Absolute MDM was that we really didn’t need any training – the software just worked exactly how we expected it to and everything was where we needed it to be,” said Leigh. “We have a team of eight IT support staff here, and it’s been so easy that we haven’t even needed all of those to run the support for the phones. It’s down to one person to do it, and they’re managing that very easily. On the couple of occasions when we have needed support, [Absolute’s team] have been very quick.”
The response from staff
“The staff response to the iPhones has been excellent – better than expected, actually,” said Leigh. “When we rolled out this many phones we thought we might get quite a few teething problems, but actually staff have taken to the phones really well, they’re all using them every day, and we can see that from the tracking reports.”
“When I first found out about the iPhone scheme I was quite sceptical to be honest, I didn’t think it would work,” said Matthew Crumpton, LNT Group’s resident videographer, who uses the iLNT app to push out training videos to staff phones. “But now that I’ve seen it happen, it’s really impressive. I thought all the stuff about the new app and the things it can do was quite groundbreaking. It’s kept me in touch with all my work colleagues as I was up and down the country travelling with Ginetta and Ideal Care Homes, and it’s allowed me to do HR tasks – booking holidays, clocking in and clocking out when I’m in different places, it’s revolutionised the way I do my job.
“We can send out messages as often as we want to particular parts of the company, so if you only want to send out a message to construction or people in Ideal Care Homes or people in a particular care home, say in Newark, we can send out a message, and it keeps it feeling like a family business. And as the company’s grown and got bigger and expanded its staff, that we can still keep in touch like that is fantastic.”
Most of the staff have found it easy to get to grips with their phones, and any support issues are usually resolved quickly. “Leigh does receive quite a few calls every day, but they’re usually quick fixes and it’s usually just people who aren’t familiar with using the phones,” says Matthew. “Some of them were quite sceptical about using iPhones at first, but I think as their confidence in the phones grows and they see other staff members benefitting from them, they do start to use them a lot more.”
Constantly expanding the scheme
“With every member of staff here at LNT receiving a new phone, and new care homes opening every month, we’re constantly rolling out new phones to staff, and every time we do we’re constantly learning a bit more about how to roll out and get the best out of these phones,” said Leigh, who also makes sure that the iLNT app is regularly updated with new features. “For anyone looking to roll out mobile devices at the minute, I really would suggest Absolute as the main product to use. It’s really taken away a lot of time from our workload, and because it’s invisible to the end user, they don’t even need to know how to use it, it just works.”
“I think the success of the scheme here at LNT proves that it can be such a success at any company,” agreed Matthew. “We were new to it when we started, we threw ourselves in at the deep end and we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, but it’s proved an amazing success and I’d definitely recommend it to other companies.”
Autodesk know what we like: motorbike chases, things that go boom, and the quiet satisfaction of imagining the characters in whatever we’re editing are real and that we’re actually minor gods. And cleverly, they’ve managed to pack all of these things into their latest promo video for Smoke 2013, the Jeremy Hunt short ‘Fix it in Post’.
Created using Smoke 2013 (plus, y’know, some actors and cameras and other, unimportant stuff), Hunt’s short shows off the effects capabilities of Autodesk’s latest as an editor unwittingly ruins the day of a nice, ordinary guy just trying to go about his business.
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.