Sunday, 24 August, 2008

iPhone in India - first look

The new iPhone 3G has finally been launched in India. I got an SMS from Vodafone asking me to pay Rs 10,000 (US $ 232) as an advance at any Vodafone store. In a few days I would be informed when and where to collect the iPhone.

The cost will be Rs 31,000 (US$ 720) for the 8 Gb model and Rs 36,000 (US$ 837) for the 16 Gb model. Many have complained that this is excessive and they are comparing it to the Rs. 8,600 (US$ 199) price overseas. But that's misleading.

The iPhone 3G will also be available at other stores and Apple stores in India. I want to Croma at Juhu and checked out the iPhone. Here its available for Rs.29,800 (US$ 693) for the 8Gb and Rs 34,500 (US$802) for the 16 Gb.

I stopped and took a look. I asked the the sales person about the plans and whether I would have to get a new connection. he told me I could use my existing Vodafone post-paid card with the new iPhone but I would have to take a new 'package'. But I explained I already had one. Then in that case he said I would have to get a data package.

On whether my number would remain the same he said it would. But then, what would happen to the SIM card inside the iPhone? I asked, and he had no idea. And supposing I popped in y SIM card into the iPhone would it work right away? He said sure I needed to send an SMS.

And what if I had a BPL or an Idea SIM card? He said that would work too. He sid sure it would. Very strange. If this salesman is to be believed, then Apple is officially selling an unlocked iPhone in India. No need to sign up with any particular mobile service.

I don't believe it. I think the salesman was probably living somewhere in the jungles when the iPhone was released last year and all the hoopla about locking/unlocking happened over the past year or so. So he's completely unaware.

The iPhone itself what does it feel like? I held it in my hand. Maybe I was imagining it but it seemed lighter. The back is black and plastic not silver aluminium like the old iPhone. The headphone socket is not recessed so any headphone will work. The silend button is sl=ilver and flatter. And, the sofware is slightly different than the 1.x versions. Apart from these, externally at least, the iPhone 3G is not radicaly different.

Will I rush oiut and buy one? I don't think so. This Rs 30,000 price is a bit much for me. So I'm going to pass on the iPhone 3G for the moment till 3G services start in India.

And for existing iPhone owners, what happens to their iPhone? Does it get a warranty in India now? Will Apple India service the old 'unofficial' iPhone? What happens if an American with a 'legal' iPhone comes to India and has some trouble with it. Will the Apple Authorised Service Centre in India fix it?

Lots of questions still. In the weeks to come we'll have answers, I'm sure.

Tuesday, 12 August, 2008

There's a Red camera in Mumbai

For the past few months I've heard of someone or the other who 'has a Red' in India. But no confirmed sighting. Now there's one.

A production house in Andheri West has a Red camera. It's here. With lenses. I know this as a fact from a gentleman from Benchmark who are the resellers and support people for Red and Scratch.

I'm not sure if I should name the place that the Red camera is at, since I'm not sure they want it to be publicly known. The camera is functional and soon we will see stuff shot with this camera appearing on our TV screens maybe even in a theatre near you.

A lot of people - including those who own this camera - are keen on shooting with Red, here in India. Reasons include, 'filmic' lensing and hence depth of field, 'film look', no expense on film or even HD tapes, no time lost in processing and other such.

But before you rush out there and shoot with Red, especially if you're thinking of long-form film like a documentary, feature or even music video, there are things to consider.

Red shoots to memory cards - CF cards - or to hard disk. Either way, its all data. There's no film or tape. So it can 'vanish' in a fraction of a second if its not correctly stored and backed up. Almost everyone has a hard disk crash some time or the other.

Second, a post work flow. Red files can be natively edited in FCP, but not in Avid. They carry time code so the edit can be replicated on another system. But that another system cannot directly be smoke, flame, eQ, iQ or any such that one is used to 'doing online' or finishing on.

Some amount of conversions are needed from Red's native format to a format that these online systems can see and work on. And these converted files also need to be reconnected back to the edit. This is easy but takes some doing. the average editor who works with the comfort of EDLs that match back to tape or film will need some re-learning. And educated trial and error.

With a work flow that doesn't take into account this methodology, its entirely possible to end up with an edit that doesn't match back, has slippages and other such horrors. As usual, Its very easy to 'blame FCP' as a lot of editors are prone to doing.

You also need an 'ideal' system to work with Red. Just any old FCP system won't do. it will have
to be a new MacPro, gobs of RAM, loads of hard disk space. Correctly configured with the latest and compatible FCP, Quicktime, and MacOSX versions. Compatible RedCode, RedCine, Red Alert, RedRushes, FCP plug-ins. And time before the edit to explore these software, measure time taken for various conversions, and a strategy that's well documented.

So, if you plan on shooting Red, take a moment and consider and discuss these things and make a plan. Red is not film, but its easier than film. All you need is to invest time and effort to understand how to make it work.