Saturday, 26 December, 2009

Backup for tapeless media

Many film-makers have begun to shoot on tapeless media. XDCam Ex, P2, video on DSLRs, Red, AVCHD, hard disk camcorders, and such like. So, naturally, where they would store tapes in a cupboard, they now have all their 'rushes' as digital video files sitting on hard disks.

Hard disks have become larger, faster and cheaper - like they've been doing for decades now. They've also become more unreliable. Almost anyone who's shooting digital has a hard disk failure story to tell.

So what's the best way to backup this new media? A couple of approaches based on my experience.

First, estimate who much data you need to store. Red, video DSLRs, XDCam Ex, P2 all have a data rate - a certain number of Gb/hr. For instance HDV is 13 Gb pr hour, Canon 5D or 7D do 19 Gb/hr, XDCam Ex is 16 Gb/hr, Red is 98 Gb/hr and so on. So you can get a number on how many hours of your media a 500 Gb or 1 Tb hard disk can hold. Get hard disks accordingly.

In the case of Red, XDCam Ex, and video DSLRs you need to store the original media as well as the media you edited with. So that adds to the number of Gb or Tb needed.

One relatively low cost method is to get small 2.5 in. portable hard disks. These cost about Rs 6000 for 500 Gb. You get two drives of even different makes to spread the risk by making a copy on both drives. These drives can now hold you original camera media. This is not what you edit with so the drives need not be fast and so 2.5 in. drives will work just fine.

Then for the editing, get 1, 1.5 or even 2 Tb Firewire drives. If you want better speed, get a eSATA drive and fit your MacPro with a SATA card. Or if you have a MacBook Pro, you can get an Express Card adapter to use eSATA drives.

For this editing media too, store your files on two drives to reduce the risk of drive failure. Here too, I favour drives of different makes. My favorites are Western Digital and Seagate. But not LaCie.

But if you're dong this on an ongoing basis and expect a lot of data, you'll find that you end up with a stack of drives. Leading to newer storage problems.

Consider getting a RAID. This is an external case that has a bank of 4 or 5 hard disks. These disks work as one large hard disk. They are combined using some magic called RAID striping, that makes them safe.

So, in a RAID out of 4, if one disk were to fail, your data is still fully safe. All you need to do is  to replace the failed drive and the system automatically rebuilds it and fills it with data that was on the old drive.

There are many companies making safe RAIDs for editing. I'm in the process of getting one for myself and testing it for safety for tapeless media for documentaries and features.

For long term backup, consider two other mediums - Blu-ray and LTO tapes. These cost less than hard drives and last longer than disks. they don't need power to store data and read it.

Blu-Ray is great for backing up video DSLR data. One disk holds 23 Gb which compares nicely with 16 Gb memory cards that video DSLRs use. Or even SxS cards that XDCam Ex uses. Even the Red shoots to 8 or 16 Gb CF memory cards so Blu-ray can be used to back up Red files too.

Over time you'll find that you have many many blu-ray disks posing a storage problem of its own. LTOs store more than Blu-ray, typically 400 or 800 Gb per tape depending on whether it is LTO 3 or LTO 4.

To backup to LTO 3 or LTO 4, you need to buy a drive that can write to Blu-ray disk, or LTO tape. These drives cost about Rs 40k for a Blu-ray writer, and about Rs 2 lakhs for an LTO drive.

If that's out of your budget, consider getting in touch with a post facility that has these drives. They could do the backup for you on a per tape, or per Gb basis that can make it economical.

Whatever route you take, factoring the backup of your media is crucial. Digital cameras create data that represents your time and effort shooting. You lose that data just because a drive failed, usually means you've lost all your rushes. Completely avoidable with a bit of planning..

Friday, 20 November, 2009

Smoke on Mac OSX

Earlier this month (Nov 2009) word filtered out at various sites on the 'net of an upcoming Autodesk Smoke for Mac OSX. I first heard it in a podcast. Then came out with it as a news item.

My sources in Autodesk, initially were hesitant to confirm it (NDAs and all that), but as it became public, they did acknowledge it. A few days ago it was out in the open with Autodesk sources here in Mumbai telling us about how it will be in India. More on that, a bit later.

Now, substantial details are available, and has actually posted a video on that even has interviews with Autodesk representatives, even a developer who described the port to Mac OSX.

A link to the video is here
Watch FXguide TV Epi 072

From that, and other sources, here's a picture of the new Autodesk Smoke on MacOSX.

First off, Smoke on Mac will look and feel pretty much like Smoke on Linux or even Irix. The same interface, buttons, timelines and windows. No Mac Integration as such and you probably won't see Mac menus. So its not a new application, just a 'port' or a transfer to a new platform.

Second, Smoke on Mac OSX will be sold as a software for US$ 15,000 (Rs 7 lakhs)
And annual subscriptions will be US$ 2000 (Rs 94,000 to be paid every year)

It will need a system like this to run on…
MacPro 2007 or later
8 core Xeon
8 GB RAM, 12 Gb preferred
Aja Kona 3 card
Quadro FX 4800 or FX 5600 display card
Single display 1920x1200 resolution (multiple displays won't be supported)
A seriously fast Fibre Channel SATA RAID or SAS RAID that can deliver 500 MBytes/sec

The Nvidia Quadro FX 5600 card costs US$ 2700 (Rs 1.27 lakhs) and the SDI version costs US$ 6000 (Rs 2.8 lakhs)
The Nvidia Quadro FX 4800 card costs US$ 1600 (Rs 75,000) and looks like there's no SDI version

So, if you want to get a new Smoke on a Mac with MacPro, Kona and Nvidia as per Autodesk's recommendations, you're looking at about
Rs 5,00,000 for the MacPro
Rs 1,70,000 for the Kona
Rs 90,000 for the Nvidia FX 4800
Rs 7,00,000 for Smoke software
Rs 8,00,000 for the ultra-fast storage

So. for under Rs 23 lakhs, you'll have a Smoke system. (If my maths is holding up)

I don't know what exactly the current Linux Smoke costs, but its much more than this. Probably in the Rs 60-70 lakhs zone.

What will the Smoke on Mac not have that the Linux Smoke does? Or, if I'm looking to buy a Smoke now, should I buy a Mac Smoke or a Linux Smoke.

From indications available now, the Mac Smoke will not have…
1. Linux
2. Batch, which if you use heavily, you'll miss badly
3. Real time deliverables
4. Sparks and probably other plug-ins won't work too.

What you will have is greater integration with Quicktime. You can now soft-import Quicktime, even ProRes and DNxHD. Sort of like how FCP handles media without actually importing it into a proprietary format.

Since the Mac Smoke does not support a card like the Quadro FX 5800 SDI that the Linux Smoke supports, you won't have live HD-SDI output which is what real-time deliverables means. So some rendering may be needed. But the MacPro is as fast as the Linux Smoke's HP z800 Workstation, so there won't be much difference there.

From what I've heard, Autodesk in India will not sell Smoke as software only. They will sell a turnkey system just like they do now (with Linux Smoke). Probably in partnership with an Apple reseller. As these systems become available, it remains to be seen if the market actually favors a turnkey system, or they'll just go out and buy the software and make it work on a system they've put together.

Also, what remains to be seen if the policy of annual subscriptions is compulsory or can users get that also online. People who aren't used to the 'Discreet tax' aren't accustomed to owning a system and yet not owning it which is how a Smoke traditionally felt like.

As the first few Mac Smokes get installed here in Mumbai, will there be a differentiation in rental costs between Mac Smoke and Linux Smoke? Like will you be able to rent Mac Smoke for, say Rs 2500 per hour vs. Rs 3000 per hour that Linux Smoke now commands? Or, will people not make the distinction and crash all rentals to Rs 2000 per hour or less for a Smoke.

Let's wait and see how this Smoke on a Mac (or Smac) thing turns out in Mumbai.

Thursday, 5 November, 2009

The new Red Epic-X camera

Red, the company that gave the world the Red one camera some years ago, has announced plans for their next model - the Epic-X. Although the Epic-X was announced nearly a year ago, we now have some real specifications.

The Epic-X will be a modular camera so one can customize it for different roles and occasions. it will be able to shoot at up to 5k resolution and at speeds of up to 250 fps at 2k. It will also do a decent HD resolution

There is also a new Red code at higher data rates, a new FLUT Colour science and other features. But all of these are only announced specs and we will see more or less features as they are out.

You can't go out and buy an Epic-X yet. It will be rolled out in 4 'stages'.

In Stage 1, a select group of Red owners will be able to buy an Epic-X for $ 28,000 along with some standard accessories. This will be a 'beta' camera with features that may need working around.
In Stage 2, a more finished camera will be available. This will be based on feedback received from stage 1 owners. So this one will be a 'working model'. 
Stage 3 Epic-X cameras will be made available to Red owners for $ 19,500 and they get to keep their existing Red camera. They can also upgrade their existing Red camera sensor to a new Mysterium sensor for $ 4500 presumably to make it 'sort of' equivalent to a Epic-X.
Stage 3 is when Red owners can return their existing Red one camera and get a Epic-X for $ 10,500.
And Stage 4 is for those who don't have a Red camera, so they simply buy a new Epic-X camera for $ 28,000.

I wonder what happens to Indian Red camera owners. They have bought their Red camera after paying Customs duties of anything between 25 and 40% of the cost. They are never going to get that back. So for Indian Red camera owners it think it has to be Stage 2.

These are all announcements. Things can change till beginning 2010 when these begin to be shipped. As usual with Red "Everything is subject to change. Count on it".

Sunday, 1 November, 2009

Video DSLRs - how good are they really

The original intent of the Canon 5d MkII was not to be a video camera, nor challenge any existing video cameras. It was made to fulfill a specific need of reporters from Reuters who could shoot pro quality stills with the occasional video.

The video format of the Canon 5D MkII was made as 30 fps not 29.97 fps with that specific intention.  Reuters reporters were expected to create video for the web with this device. Web can work with 30fps every bit as well as 29.97 fps.

The form factor of the camera is friendly for still photographers so they could concentrate on shooting stills rather than learn a whole new alien interface as well as method of using a camera. Still photographers simply wouldn't have been able to easily adjust to a shoulder mount camera. On the other hand, holding a camera at arm's length and looking at an LCD screen is not very new to them.

What Canon did not estimate is how well the video fraternity took this camera up. They have sold nearly 50,000 5dMkII models and maybe about half as many 7Ds. And now there's the 1D MkIV. Together, through 2010 Canon could easily move probably a 100,000 pieces.

There is probably no video camera, and definitely no pro HD or higher resolution camera that can ever hope to sell these numbers. Even the Red, arguably the post popular pro digital movie camera so far, has sold not too many over 5000.

One of the benefits of making a still camera that shoots video, rather than a video camera that shoots stills, is that still shooters who use the SLR form factor are generally good photographers. They have a strong sense of composition and pictorial language.

They often also make a living out of taking pictures. Hence, by and large, videos from these vDSLRs seem to be pretty decent looking compared to the shaky, zoomy, swimmy videos most amateurs dish out of handycam type video cameras.

Vimeo, Flickr, smugmug, Exposure Room are full of some really great video from vDSLRs. Perya, Dublin's People, Nocturne, are just some examples.

Granted, they may be unsuitable for broadcast, but there is a huge, not-recession-ridden market of wedding video, corporate video, and internet video that can benefit from vDSLRs.

Tuesday, 20 October, 2009

The new Canon 1D MkIV

Canon announced yet another HD capable DSLR - the 1DMkIV - pronounced one dee mark four.

The official Canon announcement is here...

Vincent Laforet who immortalised the Canon 5D MkII has done a sneak preview yet again. And written a stirring piece on the future of HD-DSLRs here

And the movie he shot is available in full HD glory at smugmug here

Meanwhile, reports that the 5DMkII will soon have 24fps and 25fps capability in the months to come. With the coming of the 7D that does 24 and 25fps, and now the 1DMkIV, that will also do 24 and 25 fps. Canon probably realised that there would be a drop in 5D MkII sales (which only does 30fps), hence this addition.

Vincent's view on HD-DSLRs is apt, and I too see this as a paradigm shift to cameras that shoot with little or no light. But it needs cinematographers who see shooting movies that way. Or, there could be a breed of new photographers turned cinematographers, and docu film-makers who will do things different.

HD-DSLR video also mean doing movies that need little or no colour grading after shooting. This
is also a big deal in these days of 'safety film' - meaning a medium with lots of latitude - which is what film is viewed as. Canon HD movies don't have that kind of latitude so you pretty much have to 'make do' with what you shoot.

But then, why doesn't Canon just make a proper movie camera that does HD video? Probably because Canon has a large stake in lens sales to HD video cameras, which they don't want affected. Or, maybe, Canon sees itself as a still camera company, a market that's much larger than the movie camera market.

Shooting great stills digitally (totally acceptable as film replacement) along with the occasional great HD video, is perceived more valuable than doing modest HD video with substandard or no still capability - where most HD cameras in this price range are at.

The days to come promise some interesting visual times.

Monday, 12 October, 2009

Canon 7D HD movie mode post-production

Some gleanings on the HD movie mode of the Canon 7D, from the user manual.

First, you can't zoom while the movie is being recorded. But you can zoom between takes, like you do any other movie camera. This isn't much of a problem for any classical movie makers who don't zoom while filming.

Second, you can't 'autofocus' while recording. But you can use autofocus and even face detect to help focus just before 'taking'.

And some figures for post on Canon 7D movies.

The Canon 7D records to HD movies (1080p or 720p) at frame rates that can be set to 24, 25 or 30. The real frame rates are...

23.976 fps with the camera set to 24
25 fps with the camera set to 25
29.97 fps with the camera set to 30
50 fps with the camera set to 50
59.94 fps with the camera set to 60

These odd numbers like 23.976, 29.97, and 59.94 are used to make the camera NTSC-friendly. If you're in the PAL world, this isn't a huge problem if you're using FCP. You can 'conform' 23.976 fps to 24 fps in Cinema Tools.

All these frame rates are progressive. The Canon 7D like most DSLRs that shoot HD movies, doesn't support interlaced.

Canon 7D HD movie data rates and disk space requirements are...

1920x1080 - at 24, 25 or 30
You can shoot 12 mins on a 4 Gb Card, 49 mins on a 16 Gb card,
Which is 330 MBytes/min, or 19.33 GBytes/hr,
A 1 TB drive will hold 50 hrs

1280x720 - at 50 or 60
You can shoot 12 mins on a 4 Gb Card, 49 mins on a 16 Gb card,
Which is 330 MBytes/min, or 19.33 GBytes/hr
A 1 TB drive will hold 50 hrs

640x480 - at 50 or 60
You can shoot 24 mins on a 4 Gb Card, 99 mins on a 16 Gb card,
Which is 165 MBytes/min, or 9.9 GBytes/hr
A 1 TB drive will hold 95 hrs

If you plan to edit these files in FCP you need to convert them to Apple ProRes. Apple ProRes comes in five flavours. Three of the top ones are ProRes, ProResHQ and ProRes 4444

When Canon HD movies are converted to ProRes, they take up space as follows...

ProRes - 1080p24 takes up 53 GB/hr
or 18 hrs per 1 TB drive
ProResHQ - 1080p24 takes up 79 GB/hr
or 12 hrs per 1 TB drive
ProRes4444 - 1080p24 takes up 119 GB/hr
or 8 hrs per 1 TB drive

ProRes - 720p50 takes up 55 GB/hr
or 17 hrs per 1 TB drive
ProResHQ - 1080p24 takes up 83 GB/hr
or 11 hrs per 1 TB drive
ProRes4444 - 1080p24 takes up 124 GB/hr
or 7 hrs per 1 TB drive

Note that converting Canon HD movies to ProRes won't make the quality better, They will be editable easily. And colour correction will be easier as well.

If you work on an Avid, you need to convert to DNxHD. In that case, Canon HD movies when converted to DNxHD will take up...

DNxHD 175x - 1080p24 takes up 49 GB/hr
or 19 hrs per 1 TB drive
DNxHD 115 - 1080p24 takes up 74 GB/hr
or 13 hrs per 1 TB drive

Here too, converting Canon HD movies to DNxHD won't make the quality better. But they will be editable easily. And colour correction will be easier as well.

Finally, Canon HD movies don't carry any timecode. So if you're converting to ProRes or DNxHD you need to work with these converts and treat them like your original media. There's no need to 'upgrade' to the original movies. Sort of like XDCamEx or HDV when imported into FCP via Log and Transfer.

In the coming weeks I'll be working on the post of a short film shot on a Canon 7D. So more gleanings on how to do a DSLR video post smoothly will emerge. Keep reading...

Wednesday, 7 October, 2009

Red Cameras in Mumbai and India

I did a search for the word 'India' in the Red User's forum to see who has Red cameras in India. From the results, here is a list...

Mobile: +91 9920022551
Mobile: +91 9892707347
Telephone: +91 22 226347524

They also have a post setup

Jehangir Chowdhury
+91 98210 60903

2 Red cameras and very fine block lenses
Jehangir is also a cinematographer of repute so he takes loving care of his gear. 
Very knowledgeable about how to shoot with Red.

Artechnix Production Studio - post services including edit and VFX.
Contact us at for more information and availability of the package.
Sandeep Dey

Prasad from RaviPrasad Unit.
94442- 83324

Tel: 044- 28340396,28341727,28341828

Pavan Kumar

Red One, PhantomHD (1052fps in 1080p) and SI2K availabe for rental.
Contact Nirav Shah (+91 9444990143) and G.Balaji (+91 9840224733).

Digital Cinema Designer / Evangelist
Ph: 91-9840224733
gtalk -gbalaji | Yahoo-smallbalaji | Skype-gbalaji1975 | Twitter -

This is not a final list and I'm sure there are many more. I plan to append it as and when I hear of any more.
And, of course, if you need advice, guidance and a good plan for post or data management, archiving and backup do contact me.

Tuesday, 29 September, 2009

3G services in India

NewspaperS in India have kept us informed on the running battle for 3G in India. The auction, mind-boggling numbers stating figures on what this is worth etc etc. We'll believe it when we see it, this 3G thing.

Meanwhile MTNL has been advertising free trial of 3G services for its Trump and Dolphin GSM customers. I checked it out on MTNL's sparse web site. Here.

Basically, this is only a trial. It only works in Delhi. And even there it works at Connaught Place, Sanchar Bhawan, Rajaji Marg, India Gate, Pragati Maidan, Delhi Gate and Minto Road. 

No tariff is stated and MTNL says it will be announcing it in the near future.
MTNL plans to sell 3G as a means for video telephony and high speed internet with speeds up to 2 Mbps being advertised.

So that's it for 3G in India. 

Monday, 21 September, 2009

IBC 2009 - my view

I just got back from chilly Amsterdam where IBC happened between 10th and 15th Sept 2009. I don't have a detailed report like earlier years. But I do have notes on many things I saw and anyone is welcome to write me and I'll share specific information.

From the post-production point of view there were significant happenings around IBC. Some a bit before IBC, and others during.

First, Blackmagic Design bought DaVinci. For me this was significant. That a manufacturers of capture cards costing between US$ 250 to $ 2000 could sell enough of these to be able to buy out a company that sold systems costing US$ 300,000 to $ 800,000 each. Clearly shows where the numbers are.

Blackmagic's buyout has been documented by many sites, along with Grant Petty's own thoughts, so I won't repeat any of it. Creative Cow has a detailed analysis and an interview with Grant.

These four links tell all.
Blackmagic Design Buys DaVinci: Part 1
Blackmagic Design Buys the Power of daVinci: Part 2
A Letter From Grant Petty 

Blackmagic & DaVinci, and What It Means

But broadly, after this buyout, the DaVinci 2k Plus - the telecine colour correction system - will be discontinued. Resolve, the DI grading system will stay and probably be overhauled. As will Revival. Resolve now sports 3D workflows as well as 4k real time even for 3D.

Two other acquisitions happened but the results of these aren't immediately obvious. Avid bought Maximum Throughput and EditShare bought Gee which makes Geevs broadcast video servers, and the Lightworks editing system.

Quantel, Digital Vision, DaVinci, Filmlight had their stands in places different from earlier years. And they all has smaller stands. And all four, aside of some evolutions in their systems had nothing Earth shattering to show.

Pandora showed their MacPro based grading system - the Revolution. For DI workflows. Along with their Evolution grading surface. My colourist colleagues sat through a demo and came away impressed. Pandora has reduced prices.

Scratch and Iridas Speedgrade were both there with colour grading systems that are getting better all the time.

Red was everywhere too but there was no official Red booth. All grading systems now offer Red support. Some even have acceleration using RedRocket - Like Digital Vision. Conforming to Red files is also almost standard and doesn't need complicated DPX conversion workflows.

There were many film scanners at IBC. DFT's Scanity though not shipping yet. Spirit 4k, P+S Technik's Steadyframe, MWA's Flash Transfer, Lasergraphics' scanner, Arri's scanner, Norhtlight, Cintel's Ditto and DataMill, GoldenEye, were all there with their scanners. Great time for someone to do a side by side comparison. I did and was extremely impressed with GoldenEye.

Amongst all these, GoldenEye with its small size, 4k/2k interchangeabilty, capability for Dailies use, Sound transfer features, and low price seemed to be the scanner to watch. It is also ideal for restoration because of its clawless film transport. I hope to be associated with these scanners in the months to come.

Foundry's Nuke is emerging as the leader in film and TV compositing and VFX. They have a great suite of products and a deal for Nuke leading to the soon to be released NukeX. For a modest budget, Furnace plug-ins for FCP pack a serious punch and deliver the same quality as those inside Nuke.

Maxon's Cinema4D showed great demos and I wish someone somewhere in India would adopt this in a big way. Its the only Mac and PC based complete 3D system out there. Starting at $1000 and going up to $ 3700 with unlimited render clients this is the 3D creation software to consider if you're an all Mac shop,

Avid showed off new versions of their flagship products. I saw the Media Composer 4 demo and the single biggest feature was frame rate mixing in the same timeline. That, along with 100 undos, 16 tracks in the audio mixer, and improvements in segment mode handling are the great new features in the new MC. Avid's presentation also misspelt the word editor - they spelt it as editiors.

3D stereoscopic vision is still going strong. And many companies have now implemented it in one form or another. 3D displays and movies were everywhere. Quantel still seems to be the leader but others are fast catching up. For editing 3D, Avid has it sorted out somewhat while FCP can be made to do 3D via Cineform.

Among monitors, JVC seem to be the best with even a 10-bit display on show. But TVlogic, and Frontniche are great too. Astro's 4k display is as gorgeous as ever and a must buy for someone doing 4k or Red. Sharp also makes a 4k display, but I didn't see it at IBC.

I saw many DCI encoders that make DCPs for theatrical digital cinema release. Dolby, Qube, Doremi, and others. The surprise at Dolby was, or course Pankaj Kedia - the former 'face of Discreet' in India now in a new Avatar. Still soft-spoken,  sweet and helpful, I think Pankaj will take Dolby to new places in India, just as he did with Discreet.

DCI encoders are still a bit complex. The interface and working is simple enough but the whole act of QC and previewing as well as accommodating changes seems a bit clunky. This has to get simpler and easier. And cheaper too. I quite miss the Wraptor plug-in from Quvis.

Sunday, 6 September, 2009

The new Canon 7D - another still camera that shoots HD.

On the 1st Sep 2009, Canon put out yet another DSLR (Digital single lens reflex) camera that shoots HD video. The new Canon 7D. What makes this different from all the other HD capable still cameras is that this camera can do multiple frame rates. 24, 25,30, 50 and 60 fps.
For me, the features that matter, in this new camera are... 

Depth of field
The Canon 7D sensor is not full frame but APS-C (a specification of frame size). Many film pros have lamented that this is not 'full frame'. That's what photographers call the full 35mm still photography frame. That's important because one of the things that makes video look like video and film like film is depth of field.
Sure, The Canon is 'only' APS-C but APS-C is not small. Consider the following frame sizes of different cameras.
35mm film still frame - 36x24 mm - diagonal 43 mm
35mm film Super35 frame - 24.89x18.66 mm - diagonal 31 mm
Red One frame - 24.4x13.7 mm - diagonal 28 mm
Canon 7D frame - 22.3x14.9 mm - diagonal 27 mm
Genesis/Sony F-35 - 23.62x13.28 mm - diagonal 27 mm
2/3" cameras - 14.75x8.30 mm - diagonal 16.93 mm
16mm - 10.26x7.48 mm - diagonal 12.69 mm
Super16 - 12.52x7.41mm - diagonal 14.54 mm
Focal length is proportional to the image diagonal. And the longer the diagonal, the longer the focal length, the shorter the depth of field (DOF).
So, the Canon 7D frame, while being smaller than 35mm still 'full frame', is not significantly smaller than Super35, Red or the other digital cameras. So the Canon 7D would appear to have a depth of field comparable to Super35 film and most other digital cameras. And vastly better depth of field than 16mm, and prosumer Digital camcorders.

Frame rate
The Canon 7D shoots at a range of frame rates and formats, like...
1080p23.98, 1080p25, 1080p29.97
720p50, 720p59.94
Note that its not actually 24fps, but 23.976 fps. This 23.976 is some NTSC complication that PAL users simply can't fathom. But 23.976 is no big deal, and CinemaTools can convert it to 24fps instantly. Sound speed too can be very easily adjusted.
Incidentally, the earlier Canon 5D MkII like almost all other DSLRs that do HD video, can only shoot at 30 fps. Except the Panasonic GH1 that does 24fps.

Auto Focus
Autofocus in the Canon 7D actually works in HD movie mode. Not like a follow focus, but a snap focus when you half-press the click button. Like an assistant who pulls out a tape, measures and then sets focus. But focus doesn't adjust while shooting video. It has to be 'pulled' manually. Again no big deal once you get used to the lens.

Reduced rolling shutter
Because of the small sensor and faster shutter speeds available, the 7D should have less rolling shutter than the 5D MkII and other such cameras. I've seen examples and they seem OKish. But unless someone makes a side by side comparison, one can't be sure.
Rolling shutter is an issue with CMOS cameras, but with due care while shooting, its not a major problem.

Why 7D?
The greatest value in these DSLRs that shoot video (now called VDSLRs) is that its a tool in the hands of photographers. Who are capable of shooting really good images with available light.
Unlike cinematographers, still photographers don't whine for lights. As a discipline they're used to shooting with available light mostly. Even if you gave them shooting lights they probably won't be able to know what to do with them.
There are several reviews on this camera and you can find them at dpreview, gizmodo, and other photography sites. Many forums are discussing this actively.
Vimeo has examples too. This new space in imaging is hotting up. Keep in touch.

Monday, 31 August, 2009

Final Cut Pro 7 and Snow Leopard

Its been just over a month since Apple launched an upgrade to Final Cut Pro. The new Apple Final Cut Studio. Interestingly this not being called Final Cut Studio 3, but just the new Final Cut Studio. Final Cut Pro 6 has become Final Cut Pro 7.

Color, Cinema Tools, DVD Studio Pro, Motion and SoundTrack Pro have all been upgraded with many new features. Plenty of sites have reviewed new features in this upgrade. I plan on doing a review of features for PAL and especially film workflow as soon as I get my copy.

Then, a few days ago, Apple launched their new operating system Snow Leopard - MacOSX 10.6.

Should FCP 6 users do these upgrades? And upgrade to Snow Leopard and FCP 7?
Both or just one?

If you have FCP 6 running on a G5, or PowerBook, or G4-based iMac or MacMini. Any machine that is not an Intel Mac. You cannot run FCP 7 or Snow Leopard. Leopard and FCP 6 is the end of the road for these systems. Its a great time to buy a new Mac.

If you have an Intel Mac you can consider doing the FCP 7 upgrade. You could do a clean install of Snow Leopard first, then install FCP 7. Before you clean up, make sure you back up everything. And have your FCS2 or FCP 6 serial number handy. I you've lost it then you're out of luck. You need to buy the whole FCP 7 again.

If you use Kona cards, then you need to wait till they update their drivers. Blackmagic cards have updated drivers though.

If you don't want to risk Snow Leopard just yet, just do the FCP 7 install over FCP 6. Incidentally, even if you buy FCP 7 as an upgrade, the disks work as clean install as well. You just need your FCP 6 serial number handy. Its a good isea to write the FCP 6 number on the FCP 7 disks for the future.

And, bear in mind that FCP 7 does not include LiveType which has been dropped. So it may be a good idea to install that first from the FCP 6 disks, if you need LiveType badly. If you've never used LiveType, you may find some of its features in Motion now.

In general, how does one get Snow Leopard?

All new Macs will have Snow Leopard.

Most of us who use Leopard now, can buy Snow Leopard for under $ 30 so it should be about Rs 1500 in India. If you have Tiger, you have to buy the Mac Box Set which includes Snow Leopard and iLife and iWork - all for under $ 130 or about Rs 6500.

If you have a Mac bought after June 2009 you may qualify for an 'up-to-date program' which gets you Snow Leopard for under $ 10 about Rs 500.

Like in all OS upgrades, some applications will work with Snow Leopard and some will not.

Apple lists Snow Leopard incompatible software at their support site. If you use any of these for your business, you should not upgrade to Snow Leopard.

The good folks at Macintouch have compiled a list of Snow Leopard compatible software at their site.

If you are considering getting a new Mac, and if you have an app that shows up as incompatible with Leopard, you need to consider waiting till it becomes compatible or get an alternative to that app.

A bit of trivia on MacOSX

The operating just before Snow Leopard was Leopard or MacOSX 10.5.
Before that were
Tiger or MacOSX 10.4,
Panther or MacOSX 10.3
Jaguar - MacOSX 10.2.
As far as I remember, MacOSX 10.0 and 10.1 had no feline names, though I believe 10.1 was code-named Puma.

For those who have no idea what MacOSX is, go to the What is MacOSX page at Apple.

Wednesday, 5 August, 2009

Software buying - doing the right thing

For about the past few years I've not had reason to use serial seeker, or serial box or sites/software like that. Or cracks to software, and 'patches'. Sometimes I've just not used software I could not afford.

When I like a software, or if I need it, I just buy it. No, I'm not showing off how rich I am, its just about doing the right thing. And I end up spending less than US$ 100 in a year. That's Rs 5000, that's all. I know even well-to-do Indian film producers and directors, who drive in BMWs, Land Rovers, Prosches and Audis. These guys use serial seeker but give sound bytes to TV channels on how piracy affects the film industry. Yeah, right.

A lot of small software are available at huge discounts at MacUpdate from where I get a regular newsletter. if I like something, often times I just wait till it gets cheaper. And there are lots of free software where one doesn't have to pay, but one can donate if its useful. I donate as well.

Software I've bought or donated for are...

Neooffice, Pixelmator, Transmit, ffMpegX, Too much too soon, Clipfinder, Parallels Desktop, NetBarrierX, DVDRemasterPro, Paperless, Multiplex, MoneyWell, RipIt, Posterino, BetterZip, Circus Ponies NoteBook, Jets'n'Guns Gold, CuteClips, Voila, MapDesign and others I can't even remember.

Not many of these costed me over $ 30. But have saved me tonnes of time which I gratefully pay for.

Software that's free and as useful as some paid stuff are...
Filezilla, Cyberduck, Gimpshop, Kompozer, Seashore, Silverkeeper, TubeTV, VLC

I don't have, on any of my 3 computers any of MS-Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Lightroom.

In their place I use Neooffice, Pages, Numbers, Pixelmator, Kompozer, iPhoto. Even FCP on all my machines is either bought or presented to me. Considering how much I've earned from editing, I found it appropriate to pay for FCP. And upgrades over the years. I've paid for all of that.

So if you need a serial or a crack, do please write to me and let me know what you're looking for. I'll give you a good alternative or a case for buying it.

Saturday, 25 July, 2009

DI is Digital film shooting, Digital Cinematography, Digital movies

Many debate that digital movie shooting has still not reached that point where it approaches or betters film. Digital movie cameras have been around for a few years now. But the acceptance of digital as means of shooting movies in a big way is still waiting to happen. 

This debate will go on, just like the debate happened with still photography some years ago. Eventually that debate receded and is now as good put to rest. Film for stills is almost past tense. 

A new argument in favour of movie shooting with digital cameras, just occurred to me. 

People shoot movies on film because it is 'filmic' - film captures reality with unmatched latitude, has predictable characteristics, truer colours, is easy to use, and is a known process. All valid considerations. 

But, while most films are still shot on film, not too many are finished on film. They go the Digital Intermediate (DI) way. Even in India, finishing digital for features is prevalent. Few films have their negatives cut. 

In DI, what happens is the the film is first scanned. Meaning, a light is shone through it and a CCD creates an image of the film. This CCD is just like the kind used in digital cameras - Phantom, Arri D-21, Viper, Genesis. So, in effect, the film is 'shot with a CCD'. And less people debate whether this CCD is filmic, has the latitude to capture the range of film, has accurate colours. 

So, if the CCDs in film scanners can be trusted to represent film in all its glory, and the film itself is a good representation of reality. Then, if such CCDs are fitted with a lens, then won't we have a movie camera that's digital, and as good as film? Examples of such CCDs are those used in still cameras. 

These same digital still cameras are accepted in place of film cameras for stills. So, I thought, can't one accept movies shot with digital still cameras to be as good as, and eventually better than those shot with film-based movie cameras? That's my argument. 

If you want to make a movie that looks as good as if shot on film, and want to shoot 'natural' with a minimum of (even none) lights, then consider DSLRs. Those that shoot HD video. I've listed and briefly described some models earlier. 

After shooting, editing will be as usual - digital. Don't worry, movie editing has been digital for over a decade, thank you. Mail me for a viable post solution. Links to earlier posts on DSLRs doing HD video.

Canon EOS 5D MkII

More still cameras shoot HD video

Saturday, 20 June, 2009

Red FCP-Color workflow

I got this tip from the Indie4k blog Its a simple workflow for editing Red camera shot material in FCP and grading-finishing in Apple Color. Or using Apple Color to make DPX or CIN files for finishing on other systems like Smoke/eQ etc 

For this you need the following... 
An Apple FCP 6 or FCP 7 vsystem with the entire Final Cut Studio installed. 
The system needs to be an Intel Mac - MacPro or iMac, or MacBook Pro. 
The latest version of Red software - Redrushes, RedAlert, RedCine All correctly installed. 
A free software called Clipfinder . 
A word on Clipfinder. Its made by a German scientist called Hans-Georg Daun and it free. But there's a PayPal button on his site. 
If the software works for you, I urge you to donate generously. Remember, this software can do what others do for no less than US$ 150, so donate accordingly. Link at end. 

You start by making Quicktimes of the Red files using RedRushes or Clipfinder itself. You can make Quicktimes of any resolution even 720p and set the resolution to Quarter. These settings can give you even real-time exports out of a new MacPro. 

These Quicktimes will carry timecode from the R3D. Provided you set it that way. You then edit them in FCP. Make an XML out of FCP. Run Clipfinder and point it to where the Red files are located. Clipfinder makes a new XML now referring to the R3D files. 

Actually referring to the _H files which are 2048x1152. You then send this sequence to Color In Color you can grade to your heart's content Then come back to FCP for further editing etc. Or from Color you export to DPX or CIN Set handles as you wish. 

Take the DPX to Resolve eQ, smoke/Flame Lustre etc.

Some things to look out for...

The XML that Clipfinder makes after re-linking to _H files, creates a sequence in FCP that has the same name as the original sequence. So quickly rename it to avoid confusion. DPX files out of Color work fine in Shake, Resolve and iQ/eQ. But some versions of smoke/flame/lustre can't open them. For these systems better to use Cineon. 

Color does only a half-res De-Bayer so if your needs are 4k and or full-res De-Bayer film then this workflow may not be for you. This is for FCP ver 6 and Color 1.0.5 or older. FCP 7 and Color 1.5 and later does De-bayer in full res, even 4k Red to 4k DPX.

If the Red files are on a FAT32 or other non-Mac drive, Clipfinder may not work for making a new XML. Copy files to a MacOSX HFS drive and it will work fine. 

How about editing on Avid? Can we have more details on FCP XML or Color settings? Can you do this for us? Or, we tried and ran into serious problems. Or even, our Red workflow was a disaster, we eventually rendered out Red files to Digibeta, captured them and worked like a normal video. Red camera has been a nightmare for us. etc etc. 

Hey, nothing's easy. and nothing's free. Press that yellow 'Donate' button on the right and I'm brimming with answers and help. Especially if you're in Mumbai, India. 

The origin of this tip is the Indie4k blog archive. An excellent resource for simple common-sense answers to India film-making problems. the original link is here. 

I am grateful to those bloggers and give them full credit for this excellent idea. I've only amplified it a bit. 

Clipfinder can be found here.

And you can mail me any time with the link below. 
Or at
neil (at like e-mail at) sadwelkar (dot like full-stop) com 

Wednesday, 27 May, 2009

LaCie hard disks - the worst data backup device

In a post house with hundreds of clients walking in and out every day - editing, finishing, DI, VFX CGI - hard disks are as common as tapes. And clients bring their media and take delivery on hard disks as a matter of course. 

But by far the commonest drive that comes to us is LaCie. So by the law of averages, LaCie is the drive that fails the most as far as I've observed. And amongst Lacies the commonest and most catastrophic failures are in their RAIDs - 2-drive RAIDs.
LaCie Big Disk Extreme+ very bad choice for data backup
LaCie Big disk Extreme+ This is the latest one that has failed on me. It came with a client who needed a DVD from an HD Quicktime for her entire feature. We encoded off the drive and it worked without complaint for 14 hours. Air-conditioning was good so no temperature problems. Yet, a day later, the drive failed to mount. Checked and swapped cables, power supplies. Still no luck. Disk Utility and Disk Warrior don't see a drive. 

Apple System Profiler sees a Big disk Extreme + on Firewire but no drive. When I start up, I hear just one click-n-whirr. Where a two-drive LaCie (I have another working one) normally emits two click-n-whirr sounds. So I guess one of the two drives is history. And since all LaCie two drive drives are RAID 0 so is the data. 

The sad thing is that client had, along with Quicktimes of her feature, ProTools sessions for her entire two hour long feature. And she was on a tight budget. Very very sad. I haven't even bothered informing LaCie support. They have a no-reply policy for India in force, as far as I have encountered. 

I even have two LaCie Biggest F800 which have failed. First the Firewire 800 ports failed in both. One in the warranty period. Filling out support forms as well as sending mails to LaCie got no responses. Even the dealer put his hands up and said he could do nothing about it. So I resigned myself to running it off USB 2.0.
LaCie Biggest F800 - abysmal security at very high price.
Recently one of the drives in this Biggest F800 failed. The LCD display on the drive said "Disk 1 fail". It was RAID 5 so I thought no problem, data was safe. I proceeded to copy out all the data to another drive. No luck. Some of the data couldn't be read. 

I thought I could replace the failed drive with a new one. It was IDE 250 Gb, so I had some of those. After replacing the drive, the RAID was supposed to be rebuilt. That's what the documentation (and the dealer) said. But surprise. Now it said the replaced drive was fine and some other drive had failed. "Disk 2 fail". So now I had no data. 

Replaced the drive back with the old one. And now, all was fine. Still I thought I should copy it all to another. And then. Back to "Disk 1 fail". 

Bottom line. If you have data on your system's drive and want to back it up to an external drive. the absolute LAST choice should be a LaCie. And definitely not a LaCie two-drive RAID. Even a LaCie RAID 5 is not a good idea. It costs the Earth and more, and it offers no real protection against drive failure. 

My choice is a Western Digital single drive. And if you're paranoid, get a Seagate FreeAgent as well. Have both of the same capacity. And make them both single-drive drives. NO RAIDs. 

And then use a backup software like Time Machine or Silverkeeper to backup to both. Should any one drive fail, get a new one and copy data over on it. Then send the failed drive to Seagate or Western Digital for replacement. 

Both of them have a great replacement policy. Even in India. My first choice is definitely Western Digital. Not that they haven't failed. But at least they are prompt with replacements. And both talk to you on support. Reply e-mails as well. The only good thing about LaCie is Silverkeeper.

Thursday, 30 April, 2009

The Power of One - in Democracy and Piracy

I Voted

India - the world's largest 'real' democracy went to the polls. And nearly a billion people would vote. I was one of them. While standing in the queue, I thought of the publicity in the run up to the elections. Leading persons from various walks of life told us how important voting was. The Times of India ran a special front page telling us about the power of one.

While I stood waiting my turn to vote, I thought about this 'power of one' idea. Its definitely important in democracy. It also applies to piracy. Movie piracy and software piracy. The power of one. Referring to anyone who shadily makes a copy of something he and she's not paid for. They knows its wrong, but do it nevertheless, just because 'everyone does it'. And because he or she won't get caught for it.

Its even more amusing when the film industry - actors, directors, producers - tell us about how bad piracy it. It is bad all right, but some of them do it too. With computer software, if not other people's movies.

The power of one, here too. "So what if I don't pay for MS-Office, I'm only one, Microsoft makes enough money right?" Can be easily rephrased as "So what if I download and watch Ghajini, I'm only one, the producer made 200 crores right?" So here too, 'one' makes a difference because everyone thinks they are 'one'. Just like in voting.

I just checked, Microsoft in India sells MS-Office for as less as Rs 3050. Look here. So all those film producers who moan and whine about piracy while running MS-Office on their laptops and office PCs can now show the power of one, by buying it. Rs 3050 is about what my family blows when we see a movie - just one movie - in a multiplex over the weekend.

For every one producer who uses one copy of MS-office without paying for it, my family watches one movie by downloading it, I think we'll be square. The power of one. Just like in a democracy.

Besides, I get to pay for movie tickets, and I get to pay for computer software, because I care about piracy. Some producers and actors on the other hand, get passes for movie premieres. So they watch movies for free and, (if they don't buy it), get computer software for free too. What are they cribbing about?

Friday, 27 March, 2009

The Planetarium in a Science book

Many years ago I wrote an article for a magazine called Science Today. I don't think this publication exists any more. But Orient Blackswan has published a text book called

English for Students of Science
By Roy, & Sharma, P.L., (eds)

Link here...

In this book, they've published the entire article.
pages 161-162

I have no copy of that article and have even forgotten I wrote it. But if anyone wants to know how the planetarium machine works, this is a quick explanation. I'm not sure I can make a copy and put it here.

And, my earlier post on 'Editing HDCamSR 24p in an Avid Media Composer Mojo' has been linked on another blog here.

Amazing how the 'word' travels.

Neil Sadwelkar

Tuesday, 24 March, 2009

Wide-angle adapters for prosumer camcorders

One of the big problems with small HDV, DV and XDCamEx camcorders is that their stock lenses aren't wide enough. They let you go very close with tele, but in tight spaces, its hard to cover everything if you don't have room to back up from the subject.

Something like 35mm to 40mm is the widest many camcorders go down to.

For those who need wider lenses with little or no optical defects, Schneider a well known lens maker, makes wide-angle adapters for many prosumer camcorders

The Sony Z-7, S270, Canon HV20/HV30, XHA1 and many others.

Here's the link for the SonyS270/Z7

The S270 stock lens is 32 to 384 mm (35mm eqvt) with the .75x adapter it becomes 24-300 mm.
For 'only' US$ 1235.00. And you can zoom with the adapter attached.

Many other cameras are listed too check the dropdown.
There are adapters for the XH-A1 and HV30 as well.

A bit pricey, though.

Wednesday, 4 March, 2009

Editing HDCamSR 24p in an Avid Media Composer Mojo

A colleague came up with an interesting situation. 

A client of ours is proposing to shoot a film on HDCamSR at 1080p24, meaning real 24 fps. The final output will be 35mm film also real 24fps. Being from a PAL country we see no utility on doing the 23.976 - 29.97 NTSC workflow. 

In fact, when I researched this on the 'net and specifically the Avid Community forum, I came up with mostly NTSC based workflows. Even the Avid MC manual doesn't have any explanation on this. Not surprising, editing system manuals seldom address the PAL 24-25 workflow. 

I've found that in the non-PAL post world, people mostly work in 23.976 fps. For shooting HD, telecine to tape whatever. No 24fps. Or in variants of 23.98 like 59.94. Incidentally, on FCP this would be easy. All our FCP systems have Blackmagic HD capable cards. And in FCP one can capture the HD as ProRes or DVCProHD and save space. 

Either way we would be capturing 24fps and editing true 24fps HD. We can then make out an EDL and recapture selects for conform and grading in our normal film grading systems - like Quantel iQ or Resolve. 

Even Autodesk Smoke or a Quantel eQ could be used for the recapture. We then export as DPX for further processing. All of this is at 24fps. Tried and tested. Works. But on an Avid there is a problem. 

All our Avids are Mojo SDI Avids that cannot capture HD. So we need to output from the HDCamSR VTR as SD PAL video. And an HDCamSR VTR, when outputting an HDCamSR tape as SD PAL video does so with a speed change. Meaning 24p HD plays out, not at 24fps, but at 25fps. 4% faster. 

Of course, Avid can capture 25fps PAL material in a film project and make it play at 24fps. But in this process of making it 25fps in the HD VTR and converting to 24fps in the Avid one loses the original HD timecode. So no EDLs, no recaptures. 

So I did some trials to find a fix. 

I've tried on a small test clip and sequence, so please do try it out and check if it works. Here it is. 

First set the HD VTR to do a burn-in TC (also called window burn or TC super). Make it show the original 24fps TC and the 'derived' 25fps TC. It looks like this.


 TCR is the 25fps 'derived' timecode that Avid will get when capturing, and 'ORG' is the original 24fps timecode. Next, open a film project in Avid Media Composer (this applies to MC MojoSDI ver 2.6 upwards). Capture the HD with deck control normally as you would. After capture set the bin headings like this. Basically you need to be able to see 'Start' and 'TC 24'. Initially, the TC24 column will be blank in the bin. Now open each clip from the bin to the source window and park at the first frame. In the bin enter the timecode you see in your rushes as 'ORG' in the 'TC 24' column. 

So now, you've 'assigned' a 24fps timecode to each captured clip. Avid will now track both the 'derived' 25fps timecode as well as the original 24fps timecode through your edits. Now you can edit normally. In the 'Film and 24p' settings you can set the edit play rate as 24fps so that the sequence clips will sync with audio if any was recorded separately on location. 

After the edit is complete, you can export the EDL using EDL manager. But with two small changes. In the EDL manager main window (not settings window), set the 'Source TC' to 24 and 'Record TC' to 24. Now open the seq you've edited and make an EDL. 

And save it. If your finishing system needs a reference cut, export the sequence as a Quicktime movie. Make sure the Quicktime movie is 24fps. Mind that Avid , when doing a fast export from a 24fps timeline, makes a movie as 23.98 fps. If you have an FCP system handy you can convert this movie to DV-PAL and then use CinemaTools to conform it to 24fps. Else just do a custom export from avid as DV-PAL at 24fps. 

Quantel iQ and the new Smoke and Resolve accept these as reference movies. This reference movie will match clips recaptured from the original HDCamSR tapes at 24fps using the EDL we just made. 

Please mind that I've tried this for a few clips and an EDL. You should test this thoroughly with your source material before committing to this workflow. And as I said before, if you have the option to work in an FCP system, none of this TC wrangling is necessary. 

Or, if you haven't got a Avid system yet and have to work in Avid, then get a MojoDX. This allows HD capture. And no TC wrangling. If this method has saved you some labour or made you some money, then consider pressing that yellow button in the margin that says 'Donate'.

Saturday, 28 February, 2009

More still cameras shoot HD video

Still cameras could shoot video clips for about as long as they've been around. They shot small sized very compressed videos. Maxing out at 640x480. But now there's a range of cameras that can shoot high quality HD video. Some can even be called 'broadcast-worthy'. Not to be confused with broadcast quality, though.

I went on a holiday some days ago with a bunch of colleagues who all had DSLRs. Really good cameras. Reminded me of times, some years ago when I too went everywhere with my film SLR. Eventually, I gave up on my SLR with its range of lenses, flash, motor-drive etc. I bought a really small Canon IXUS70 which is hitched to my belt in a small pouch. I now shoot stills and movies anywhere anytime.

These small point and shoot cameras also have a surprising amount of control over picture taking. Not in the same league as aperture or shutter priority of the DSLRs or bracketing or anything like that. But still, useful, if you know how.

What is quite amazing is how good the video looks with small still cameras. So, while on this holiday, my colleagues came out with stunning pictures, I had videos. Of some things that simply couldn't be conveyed in a still. Like riding a battle tank, or shooting with a real machine gun. Or the incoherent babble of my friend's year old son.

Before this still camera, I shot video with my DV camcorder for some years. After my SLR days I tagged that DV camcorder wherever I went. But its bulky, shoots tape, and needs a camcorder to show people your videos. And the videos need editing (which is what I do for a living anyway). Somewhat cumbersome. Also, video camcorders shoot really abysmal quality stills so I still needed to tag along a still camera.

My next acquisition will definitely be a still camera with HD video shooting capability. Best of both worlds. But I'll forgo the Canon 5D MkII, or Nikon D90 class and go for one that is small.

I came accross, this list of still cameras that can do HD video...

The Nikon D90 and Canon 5D MkII were the cameras that started this trend. But these are both expensive DSLRs. In the Rs 60,000 to 1.2 lakh range. Also, they are bulky, which for casual photography, is a no no. And both have interchangeable lenses. So you'll eventually end up with a collection of lenses which you'll always tag along.

Amongst small cameras, that do HD video there is the Canon SX 1 IS. This shoots 1080p video but at 30fps.

So, In India we'll need a creative way of converting 30fps to 24fps or 25fps. If I can get my hands on this camera, I could figure a preset in Apple Compressor to make a smooth conversion.

A good review of this camera is up at Cameralabs here...

The SX1 IS is probably the only of the non-DSLRs to shoot 1080p video.

The rest of the small cameras mostly shoot 720p movies. All at 30fps. The Canon SX200 IS is one such. It shoots 720p video again at 30fps.

This camera has only an LCD for a viewfinder. No 'regular' viewfinder. I find that a problem sometimes. Too used to shooting with one eye peering through a small hole.

Canon has provided a the SX200 IS with a 12x zoom and the SX1 IS with a generous 20x zoom.

In 35mm terms, the SX200 is 28-336mm while the SX1IS is 28-560mm So both are very wide angle lenses that can zoom to very telephoto. In fact, in the SX1 IS you can digitally double this to 56-1120mm. Great for wildlife too. And it goes down to 0 cm (yes zero cm) in macro mode. So leaf patterns, small insects, serious close-ups, here we come.

For half the price of the SX200 but with a shorter zoom is the Samsung TL34HD. If you absolutely must have a still camera that also does HD video, then this is your pick. But the zoom is 3.6x in this camera.

Detailed reviews are linked on the page I've linked above. So read it and make your choice. I'm not partial to Canon, just that I've always had a Canon, so they caught my eye first.

The Panasonic FZ28 is also a capable camera, much lighter than the SX1 IS and according to one review, better at correcting colour fringes.

Detailed review, also at Cameralabs, here...

One thing that may come to the mind of fellow video shooters is this.

If video shooting is what one wants to do, can't one just get a HD camcorder? Camcorders do still too.

Not quite. Cost is one consideration. Even the most basic HD capable video camcorder is at least Rs 60,000.

Way over the cost of the basic still camera that does HD video. These still cameras start at Rs 10,000. Besides, still cameras that do HD video take great pictures too. So you need to take your pick between spending a large chunk of money on a video camera that shoots average stills or a fraction of that cost on a still camera that shoots gorgeous stills but average movies.

Added 16 March 2009

At the PMA 2009 show, Panasonic added a new camera the DMC-GH1. This is a micro four thirds camera with interchangeable lenses. What makes this camera special is the long zoom and HD movies at 1080p24. Yes 24fps. It saves movies as AVCHD at 17Mbps.

And in this camera, the auto focus works while you are shooting video. Yes. strange as it may seem as a feature, most still cameras that do HD video don't function like true video cameras in these respects.

I believe this camera's movie making capability will be stellar. Panasonic are the guys who gave the world great looking HD in the form of DVCProHD.

The camera will be available by June 2009 so maybe by then some specs might change.
Till, then, a review here...

This year, HD video will definitely get into most homes which have a HD capable LCD TV. As movies shot on a HD capable still camera.

If you're looking at places to buy these in India check with. Simply safely and with home delivery, do check out