Archive for October 15th, 2009

Will VdSLRs Drive Prosumer Camcorders to Next Level?

Traditionally, shooting a movie or a music video that had to exhibit the magical “Hollywood look” meant that the filmmakers had to rent expensive, professional cameras. Buying such a camera is still today prohibiting because of the high price tag.

Interestingly, the prosumer market of $2,000-$10,000 camcorders never fulfilled the particular job adequately since they have very small sensors and not interchangeable lenses. When adding third party accessories to make them behave more like their professional siblings (e.g. 35mm adapters, lenses), the prices end up getting higher, and there’s usually a quality hit too.

Suddenly, when no one was really expecting the development, dSLRs started carrying video capabilities, with the Canon 5D and Panasonic GH1 becoming the first “serious” such cameras. For a package that costs less than $3000 we could now enjoy full manual control, shallow depth of fied, and a high-bitrate codec at full 1080p.

Shooting something more than basic video with these cameras results in very beautiful footage that easily attracts the attention of indie filmmakers and enthusiasts with their relatively low prices. For example, the enthusiasts who fell in love with the very popular Canon HV20/30/40 series (the first consumer HD cameras to shoot in 24p), and the indie pros who were battling with inadequate prosumer camcorders for years, now they have new toys that could produce pleasing images at a low cost.

This undoubtedly puts a lot of market pressure to both high-end consumer camcorders and most prosumer models. Personally, I already know a lot of filmmakers, and filmmaker-wannabes, who are getting ready to sell their current camcorder so they can get a Canon 7D, for example. This is something that will have to naturally push the engineering and camcorder product teams at Canon, Sony and Panasonic to offer decent products in the future, decent-enough to compete with the new wave of VdSLRs: bigger sensors, lenses, maybe even 4:4:4 RAW codecs.

Of course, traditionally-built camcorders will continue to sell for corporate and wedding usage, but it’s clear right now that when it comes to filmmakers and artists, they require something more advanced than yet another 1/3″ camcorder.

I do expect that the next big batch of new models by Canon will feature the cameras that filmmakers always wanted, and we probably have to thank — in part — the video dSLR market for it.

Hurrah for competition!

Adobe & Sony Debut New Consumer Video Editors

Sony released recently their Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD, one of the most affordable HD video editor out there, selling for a mere $40. The application is based on the Vegas Platinum/Pro engine and has most of the Vegas Platinum 9 features, except the following:

– No 24p exporting support
– No Sony AVC export tweaking (a wealth of pre-cooked templates available, WMV export still tweakable)
– No 5.1 audio support (down-mixes to stereo)
– No primary Color Corrector plugin (Curves, and all other Vegas plugins still available)

The Sony Vegas Platinum version has all the features above, making it the most powerful consumer video editor in the market, is selling at $80. However, for those who don’t need all these features, or don’t have the money for it, the Movie Studio HD is a perfect video editor to start with.

Adobe also announced recently their Adobe Premiere Elements 8 video editing software for Window. This major release offers a new Organizer to manage all media in one convenient location.

In addition, SmartFix automatically fixes shaky footage, color and lighting problems; Smart Trim identifies and helps users get rid of the least interesting, lowest quality footage; and SmartMix seamlessly balances audio elements to give videos good sound throughout. Also, with new motion-tracking capabilities, users can add graphics, text and effects that automatically follow a subject within a scene.

Previous versions were also tweakable to support 24p, so it’s possible that the same hack might still be compatible in the new version. Premiere Elements 8 will cost $100 when it releases in November.