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BIRTV 2014 video: Chinese inventor hacks an old tape based Sony ENG camera to shoot 2.7K by putting a GoPro inside

By site editor Dan Chung:

Plenty of TV stations and freelance cameramen have old Betacams and DV based cameras lying around gathering dust. Imagine if you could upgrade them to 2.7K, or even 4K shooting? One Chinese inventor has been trying to do just that.

Would you really put a GoPro in an ENG camera?

Would you really put a GoPro in an ENG camera?

At the BIRTV show in Beijing this week we were shown a prototype for a GoPro Hero 3+ fitted into the body of an old Sony tape based ENG TV camera. The GoPro’s lens is removed and the TV camera’s lens is utilised instead. Amazingly it actually works. The image can be displayed in the viewfinder, one of the camera’s buttons can be used to access the menu, audio inputs are supposed to work and a SD card is used for recording.

Unfortunately the picture quality of the sample we were shown leaves an awful lot to be desired. Check out the video to see just how bad it is.

Parts of the modification can be seen where the tape mechanism used to be

Parts of the modification can be seen where the tape mechanism used to be

The GoPro sensor is visible inside the old Betacam

The GoPro sensor is visible inside the old Betacam

There is a handy HDMI cable for hooking up a monitor

There is a handy HDMI cable for hooking up a monitor

Shot by Clinton Harn and translation by CY Xu.

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Posted on August 31st, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: GoPro, Sony | Permalink | Comments (3)

BIRTV 2014 video: Movcam give more details about their Sony a7S cage and show new C300 top handle and cage

By site editor Dan Chung:

Movcam were at BIRTV showing a updated version of their top handle and cage for the Canon C300. The new version is much lighter than the previous one and features a detachable top handle as well as 15mm rod mounting on top.

I also asked them about their new cage for the Sony a7S which I reviewed earlier this week. It will be shipping to dealers in about a week and will available in black as well as the gun-metal finish.

Movcam didn’t give pricing for the cage but it is already available to pre-order on the CVP website in the UK for £123.35 + tax for the basic cage. You can also order a version of the cage including a riser and baseplate for 15mm rods at £206.04 plus VAT.

Shot by Jonas Schönstein.

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Posted on August 31st, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Camera support systems, Canon C300, Sony a7S | Permalink | Comments (0)

BIRTV 2014 video: Lanparte show brushless gimbal that takes smartphones and GoPro and new BMPCC rig with start/stop trigger

By site editor Dan Chung:

At the BIRTV in Beijing this week we looked at the latest brushless gimbal for smartphone and GoPro Hero from Chinese manufacturer Lanparte. They claim it will be easy to change the gimbal from smartphone to GoPro use by using a simple clip on system. The three axis design runs off a rechargeable battery and uniquely has a small counterbalance weight that allows different smartphones to be balanced correctly. Lanparte told us that the price will be at or under $350 US – which is highly competitive.

Also on the Lanparte booth was a newly designed rig for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. This one has a shoulder stock design with ARRI style rosettes for flexible adjustment. It also has a nice looking small start/stop trigger that attaches to the handgrip. No firm pricing was given at the show.

Video by CY Xu and Clinton Harn.

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Posted on August 31st, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Blackmagic design, Brushless gimbals, GoPro, IPhone | Permalink | Comments (0)

BIRTV 2014 video: Sevenoak show handy $70 motorised rotating head for time-lapses

By site editor Dan Chung:

Sevenoak are a Chinese manufacturer specialising in value accessories for filmmakers. They were showing several new gadgets at the BIRTV show in Beijing including a handy motorised rotating tripod head for time-lapses. It is designed to take GoPros, Smartphones and lighter DSLRs and Compact system cameras.

Unlike other cheap rotating devices (or hacked egg timers) this one has different settings for duration and degrees of travel. There is a built-in rechargeable battery and device seems well constructed.

The best part however is the price – estimated to be around $70 US by the time it hits the shelves.

The Sevenoak advanced time-lapse device

The Sevenoak advanced time-lapse device

They were also showing a more advanced device that seems to have features similar to the popular Syrp Genie. No price or release date was given.

Shot by CY Xu and Clinton Harn.

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Posted on August 31st, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Timelapse | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sony’s Peter Crithary responds to F5 4K hack – “unauthorized modifications to the product are not covered”

By site editor Dan Chung:

Picture by Paul Ream

Picture by Paul Ream

As news of the 4K internal recording hack for the Sony F5 spread online it was inevitable that Sony would have to respond at some point. Today we got that response on Sony’s own discussion forum from Peter Crithary who is the Marketing Manager for Super 35mm acquisition and technologies at Sony Electronics, USA

This is what he had to say:

“All,
 
Sony is aware of the All File modification that was done by some F5 owners to enable 4K XAVC recording in the camera head. As a matter of policy Sony cannot approve any modifications that are not part of an official firmware release. All firmware updates from Sony come with quality assurances that guarantee high quality performance. Furthermore, unauthorized modifications to the product are not covered by, and may void, Sony ‘s product warranty. 
 
Regards
 
Peter”

This is a firm and unsurprising response. On the forum post a debate has ensured among owners about whether they were entitled to the 4K function and what, if anything, Sony’s next move should be. Creator of the hack Paul Ream chimed in with this:

“Firstly, I did not go looking for 4K on my F5 because I felt I was entitled to get it for free. I do not expect to have anything more on my camera than I paid for originally.  It was more a case of idle curiosity – a challenge if you like.
 
Obviously, I thought for a while about what to do with the knowledge… but this ‘hack’ as some call it, was so simple, that I was actually shocked nobody had thought of it before.  Did people really expect me to say nothing?  Most F5 users on here were begging me to tell them how I did it!
 
If I’m angry, it’s because Sony have failed to protect the investment that F55 owners have made in a very expensive product. This damages the reputation of the brand – i.e.. both camera’s.  I’m not even sure I’d have the guts to use 4K4F5 on a paid job until we know more about what’s going on with these camera’s?
 
Yes, I think Sony now need to offer 4K on the F5 officially – even at a reasonable fee. They know it’s what their customers are crying out for, and we all know it’s now possible.  To do anything else would be petty.  Trying to sell us a £10K upgrade for items we didn’t want was when the long term plans for the F5 went wrong… now’s the chance to put that right.
 
What I am pleased about is the fact we’re all now discussing how these professional items are sold to professional users.
 
So two questions:
 
If Sony had produced one camera with different options that could be purchased and added when required, would any of us have felt as cheated?
 
What if it was one camera with paid options, and they failed to protect the keys to turn those options on?  Who would be to blame if someone stumbled on the switch?”

You can read the whole post with the ensuing discussion here.

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Posted on August 30th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: 4K, Sony F5, Sony F55 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Go Creative Show: Sharknado 2 editor Vashi Nedomansky, plus gear news from Matt Allard

By site editor Dan Chung:

GCS039 Vashi

With all the news about firmware upgrades and hacks in the past week or two, I somehow forgot to post a recent podcast from our partners at the Go Creative show. This is even worse as it isn’t often that our own technical editor Matt Allard shares the bill with the film editor of Sharknado 2. Vashi Nedomansky talks to host Ben Consoli about his work on the campy movie.

Click below to listen in:

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Posted on August 29th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Go Creative show | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sony’s RX10 gains XAVC S recording format – a welcome free upgrade

By site editor Dan Chung:

The RX10 - the right choice for a Multimedia shooter?

The RX10

The Sony RX10 is a popular all-in-one camera which has gained popularity with many news shooters. Both myself and our technical editor Matt Allard own them. The appeal is the reasonably large 1 inch sensor, a high quality Zeiss zoom lens and the ability to add XLR audio via the XLR-K1M jack pack.

The main drawback of the camera was that recording was limited to AVCHD and MP4 formats. Newer Sony cameras like the a7S and a5100 have featured higher quality XAVC S recording options.

In a surprise move Sony have today announced a free firmware upgrade that will allow XAVC S recording on the RX10 – something we suspected was technically possible but I didn’t expect to get without having to buy a new model.

This should make an already very attractive camera even more popular. I’m looking forward to testing it out ASAP. The move also offers hope to owners of the a6000 that a similar upgrade may be possible – fingers crossed.

You can download the upgrade from here.

This from the Sony website:

Add XAVC S recording format

RELEVANT PRODUCTS

This information is for the following models:
▪ DSC-RX10

ABOUT THIS DOWNLOAD
▪ Name: Firmware update Ver.2.00 for DSC-RX10 (Windows)
▪ Release date: 28/08/2014
▪ Benefits and improvements
▪ Enables shooting 60p/30p/24p/120p movies in the XAVC S format that supports high bit rates 
(1920×1080) 50p/25,(1280×720) 100p, (1920×1080) 60p/30p/24p,(1280×720) 120p 
Note: When shooting a movie in the XAVC S format, ensure that an SDXC card of Class 10 or faster is used.

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Posted on August 29th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Sony | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interview with the man behind the Sony F5 4K hack – why did he do it?

By technical editor Matt Allard:

Paul Ream with his Sony F5

Paul Ream with his Sony F5

If you are an owner or potential owner of Sony’s F5 it probably hasn’t escaped you that a recent hack has made it possible to record 4K internally on the camera. By default the F5 could only record up to 2K in XAVC, but the hack removes this resolution barrier.

There has been much debate about whether customers are being well served when major companies differentiate between models using firmware rather than hardware. Some argue that Sony and other major companies are well within their rights to charge what they want for similar models with features enabled or disabled via firmware – it is after all a free market where no-one is forced to buy anything. Programmers and developers don’t come free and having common code then disabling features is a common practice in the tech industries these days.

Others argue that manufacturers should not ‘cripple’ products that are physically capable of more than their firmware allows – you have purchased the hardware and it is unethical of firms to restrict what you can do with it via firmware, or charge for features that are added by paid firmware upgrades.

Paul Ream is the man responsible for sharing this latest hack with the world and interestingly he is working cameraman with a prestigious career, not a software engineer. Naturally, this made us curious: why would he do this and what were his motivations?

Paul has been a cameraman for 37 years. He went straight from school to be a trainee at UK broadcaster ITV. He later became Head of Cameras at Sky News for their first six years of operation. For the past 18 years he has been a freelance cameraman. He has a wealth of experience and knowledge and has seen the industry change over many years. Paul has become increasingly frustrated with new cameras being released on an almost weekly basis and is concerned that investment in kit as an owner/operator is becoming harder and harder to justify. 

Q. As a freelancer working in today’s market how hard is it to sustain a living given that technology is changing so fast?

It’s much harder to sustain a reasonable living as a freelancer owner/operator in today’s market. You’d think that the lower cost of professional cameras would make things easier, but actually what happens is the pressure from production to lower your daily rate increases. Because the cost of entry is also lower, there’s more competition from people owning pro-level kit.

Q. Is it frustrating as an owner/operator when new cameras are released on almost a weekly basis? How quickly is your camera and equipment depreciating in value?

Although 10 years ago, pro cameras were considerably more expensive, most owner/operators would finance these over say three years.  Because the cameras had a life expectancy of probably five years, you could buy a new camera safe in the knowledge that after you’d finished paying it off, you still had about two years of making a profit from it. The old Digibeta cameras were a great example of this, and a good investment for most people over many years. Now we’re lucky to finish paying for a camera before clients want us to have something else. This is very frustrating for anyone trying to earn a living.

Sony's F5

Sony’s F5

Q. Would you like to see camera manufacturers have fewer models and a system where you just pay extra for added features? Or do you think a camera should be released that is fully functional and doesn’t have features purposely disabled?

Personally, I don’t think camera manufacturers should ever release cameras that have built-in features deliberately disabled. You’d think that restricting functions would broaden the potential market and make lower models more affordable for everyone. What actually happens is that everyone soon realises the obvious marketing ploy, and this damages the reputation of the whole brand.

Q. The F5 is just one example of many cameras on the market where manufacturers have used firmware to differentiate between models. Do you think owners of cameras should be angry about this?

Contrary to what many people have said about the hack for my F5, I didn’t feel entitled to anything more from my camera than I’d originally paid for. It’s F55 owners that should be angry because it’s their investment which has been damaged by cheap marketing tricks. If they had realised there were so little differences between the cameras, would they have paid the extra?

Picture by Paul Ream

The F5 running at 4K. (Picture by Paul Ream)

Q. How did you come up with the idea for the hack in first place? Had you been looking into it for a long time, or was it something you just stumbled across?

Some time ago I wondered if you could load F55 firmware onto an F5, but I quickly realised that this would cause too many issues. More recently, I wanted to rename a lot of my setup files and found that using the camera menu was a laborious way to achieve this. I loaded all my setup files onto my computer to rename them. On realising that these were just plain text files I wondered what else I might be able to change. It was a process of elimination and repeated editing, saving the file and rebooting my camera to work out which codes changed what settings. From the seeds of an idea to achieving 4K on the F5 took about two weeks. I think we have just scratched the surface of what might be possible with changes to the set up files.

Q. Once you discovered the hack was possible did you have a hard ethical decision to make as to whether to share it with the world?

Once I’d discovered the way to enable 4K on the F5, I did consider the ethical implications very carefully. While I knew many F55 owners would be upset, the method I found to achieve the result was so simple I was sure someone else would discover the same before too long. I deliberately announced what I’d discovered a few days before releasing exactly how to do it, partly because I wanted to give Sony time to react.

f5

Q. Camera manufacturers would argue that they are making cameras with different features at different price points so people have more choice in the camera they buy. Is the ever increasing choice of cameras offered in the market a good or bad thing for our industry?

I totally get why camera manufacturers produce many different cameras at many different price points to give us all choice. But there’s a point when the number of choices becomes ridiculous and simply confuses the market. What’s the fundamental difference between what a wedding videographer wants and a news cameraman? I haven’t counted how many different models of camera Sony currently produce, but when I last looked it was crazy. How many do we need?

Q. Would you like to see cameras released that are fully functional and don’t have disabled features?

Personally, I would rather pay more for a camera that I know has all the functions it’s capable of properly enabled. Conversely, once I’ve paid more, I don’t want to think others have got exactly the same camera for less money, and that this can be simply hacked later!

Q. As a collective group of owner/operators out there what should we be doing to protect our investments?

The best way owner/operators can protect their investments is to only to buy equipment from companies that support and listen to their customers.  I think the F5/55 are great cameras and I was very happy to hear Sony say they had long term plans for their future.  Let’s hope they support us with that promise!

Q. What did you hope to achieve by showcasing this F5 hack?

All I hoped to achieve by making the hack public, apart from a little publicity for our podcast, was to start the conversation about how cameras are marketed and a debate about what we’re actually paying for.

Q. What advice would you give to owner/operators about their camera choice given how fast cameras become outdated?

The only advice I’d give… buy an F5 – they are a great camera!

The problem for most freelancers is that they don’t actually choose the camera they want. Their clients dictate what they should have.

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Posted on August 29th, 2014 by Matthew Allard | Category: 4K, Sony F5, Sony F55 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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