Archive for the Misc Category

Adobe says what?

Posted in Connect Recordings, DSLR Video, Misc, Upcoming Connects with tags , , on March 13, 2010 by evanbutson

Just a quick post to let you know that due to a slight whoopsie on the part of Adobe, all my Connect sessions are no longer, so all the links on the Connect page wont work. Its a bit of a bummer, but hey, whats a few dozen hour long training videos between friends 😉 This has finally made me move on something I have been meaning to do for a while, I am going to migrate my website and blog across to a new web host that will hopefully make things a bit smoother, I will then re-record a lot of my sessions with some new info as well. So hang fire, and within a week or two, there will be a new site, new training videos and a few other little surprises that I cant talk about just yet 🙂 ooooohhhhh mysterious.

The Pixel Myth ?

Posted in Misc with tags , , , on October 20, 2009 by evanbutson

A very interesting article on the Myth of 4K digital cameras. Now admitadly this guy works for Panavision and so has his own biases. But he does make some interesting point about frame rate versus resolution (pixel not optical)

How to edit Nikon D300s Videos in Realtime in Premiere Pro CS4

Posted in DSLR Video, Misc, Technology with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by evanbutson

OK, so I have had a few questions from people about how I was able to edit the files straight out of a Nikon D300s in realtime without any conversion. When I first got the D300s I just tried popping the files into my Premiere Pro 4.1 timeline to see what would happen, and lo and behold it worked. As it turns out the story is not that simple, after a bit more testing it seems that a stock install of Premiere Pro 4.1 on Mac or PC wont play the files natively. If however you have a BlackMagic product such as an Intensity or in my case a MultiBridge Pro however, the situation changes.


You see one of the features of the BlackMagic line is you can capture and edit SD and HD video using the MJPEG CODEC, which it appears is quite capable of reading the MJPEG files from the Nikon D300s. This also means you get realtime monitoring of your lovely 720p 24 fps footage out through HDMI or Component to a LCD or Plasma. But what if you don’t have a MultiBridge or Intensity? Well you could go out and buy one, and to be honest considering the cost of an Intensity Pro why wouldn’t you. But, if you spent all your money on Redrock attachments like me there is a solution.

Simply go to the Blackmagic Website and download the drivers for one of their products, I would suggest the MultiBridge drivers (simply because they were the ones I tried first for this little test). And run the installer, answer yes to everything and reboot. Now you don’t have the hardware so you wont get any of the RT or monitoring but what you will get on the PC is a new series of presets (we will get to the Mac situation in a moment) under the BlackMagic Design Folder, choose HD 720, VariCam Motion JPEG, 24p. This will give you a sequence that is at the right frame rate and frame size and smooth playback and rendering of your Nikon footage.


Now under the Mac the situation is a little different, as there are still no CS4 drivers for the Decklink range of products, this wont work. However, if you wait just a little longer, there is the possibility that maybe, just maybe, some goodness might come your way 😉

Nikon D300s – Video Review

Posted in Misc, Technology on September 7, 2009 by evanbutson

I took delivery of my new Nikon D300s body last Friday, and over the weekend had a chance to play around with it. Now there are many detailed and thorough reviews about the still image aspects about the D300s but very few on the video capabilities, so I figured I would share my thoughts, in no particular order.


The D300s shoots a maximum of 1280 x 720 footage, progressive at 24 frames per second. This is by no means as flexible as the Canon 5D MKII, but for my requirements I was quite happy with this, as practically no clients request HD even to this day and I am quite a fan of the filmic look, so actually shooting at true film rates of 24fps is a bonus. Due to technical limitations with the sensor and overheating, you can only shoot a maximum of 5 minutes at a a time, even less if the ambient temp is high. You get a countdown of 30 seconds if the camera is going to shutdown the live-view due to heat. So you wont be shooting any hour long wedding videos on this puppy. Storage wise a nice change is the D300s supports both Compact Flash and SD cards, you can actually have both slots loaded and set a variety of scenarios, record to one and then the other, record RAW to one and JPEG previews to the other, even have one act as a backup of the first. With the cost of SDHC cards plummeting, I don’t think storage will ever be a problem.

The reason I was so keen to get the D300s, apart from the fact that my D200 was feeling a little old, was the ability to use my collection of lenses to get shots I pretty much couldn’t get with a prosumer video camera, namely, very shallow depth of field as well as very wide angles and telephoto. So the first shots I popped my 50mm prime at f1.8 to see what shallow depth of field looks like. Take a look at a simple demonstration I shot.

Then I threw my 10.5mm fisheye on and recorded some footage showing what weird effects you can get. Note that I wasn’t too concerned about exposure at this stage and so there is a fair amount of noise in the shot.

One feature that is getting a lot of press is the fact that unlike the 5D MKII, you can auto-focus whilst shooting video, now personally I never really saw the attraction, on most pro video cameras there is no such thing as AF at all, and even on the prosumer cameras the first thing I always do is switch to manual. That being said I figured I would give the AF a go, there was a mention in the manual that Contrast based AF is slower, and there will be some mechanical noise in the audio track if the onboard mic is being used. Well, lets just say, they understated the noise by a margin of a shitload 🙂 and as for focusing whilst recording, the hunt and seek nature of the AF renders it almost useless, your much better suited to pressing the zoom key on the back of the body that zooms in the LCD to actual pixel level resolution allowing precise focusing.

One thing that I was interested to see how the D300s deals with is external monitoring. As a video guy, I am used to patching in an external reference monitor and cans when shooting for clients to watch, and for checking audio levels. i could find no detail in the pre-press about these features on the D300s. Well as soon as I got it unboxed that was the first thing I tested, and good news is, if you use the supplied composite cable you get video out with detailed display whenever live view is running, now the picture is all kinds of awful, but at least there is a picture, there is also a HDMI out, but I have yet to test this as it uses a mini C HDMI plug and I don’t have an adapter so until the one I ordered arrives, I wait to see, but seeing as the camera lets you choose the SD or HD formats to send out through HDMI I am guessing a 720p capable LCD on shoots will now be something I always bring. Now for the bad news, there is no audio monitoring whilst recording, you have basic control of levels, but you are pretty much at the whim of the camera, so I would suggest a beachtech or some form of pre-input device for allowing fine audio control and monitoring. I am hopeful, just as with the MKII, some intrepid programmer writes a custom firmware with VU meters and finer control. That being said, for what I will be using this camera for, I will probably be running dual system audio anyway, so I am not too bothered.

One area where the Nikon is heads and shoulders above the MKII is the file compatibility, with breath held, I popped the files into my edit suite running a BlackMagic MultiBridge Pro, I selected a 720p 24fps VariCam timeline, and placed a shot in the timeline and pressed play, and what do you know it plays perfectly, no red bars, no conversion, smooth as silk. Interestingly the MJPEG compression the camera uses really does vary depending on the shot complexity, so far I have seen footage with data rates as low as 5 megabits per second all the way up to 25 ish. When I get a chance I  will take the camera out and shoot some grass and water, usually the hardest footage to compress and see how high the bitrate can go.

So that about it for so far, once I have more time to play and do some real shooting I will post a more detailed update of the pros and cons. But at the moment, if you have Nikon lenses and you want to shoot video, this is the camera to get.

Backup, Raid and Redundancy – Part II

Posted in Misc, Technology with tags , on August 31, 2009 by evanbutson

OK, so after a lot of messing around I have finally gone ahead and built my unRAID. As this was to be used as a second line of defense if our main array were to fail in any way, and the hot spare drives had a problem, or more likely as a way of covering for human error, I decided to lash out and go for pretty much all new components.

Core 2 Duo 3.0 gig CPU, 8 gig DDRII RAM, a nice Asus mainboard with onboard 8 SATA ports and a couple of IDE ports as well. All sitting in an Antec Rack Mount Case with 6 accessible  drive bays as well as a further 6 3.5 bays. I also added this nifty Welland drive bays, basically they allow you to swap in and out SATA drives without having to mount them in Caddies first, a nice feature given that the whole point of this unRAID in not only does it provide RAID like Redundancy but it also allows easy upgrading of individual drives as space is needed.

IMG_0236unRAID is in the bottom right below the Xserve and SAN

As for storage, we have a bunch of SATA drives sitting in about 20 Western Digital external drive cases that are no longer being used with the new SAN going on line, so the plan was to re-purpose a few of them to begin with. Seeing as the way unRAID works is the Parity drive (the drive that provides protection for any of the other drives failing, needs to be at least as big as the biggest drive, I decided to hedge my bets and order a new 1.5 tb drive, then pulling apart a few of the WD cases I got a series of 1tb and 500 gig drives to throw into the Welland Trays. I also found two old IDE drives a 320 and a 500 gig to run of the PATA ports on the mainboard. That’s the great thing about unRAID, unlike RAID 5, the drives don’t have to match in any way, and can be upgraded individually at anytime. So as we need more space I can take the older 500 gig drives out and slot in a 1.5 terabyte drive.  So all up, the machine currently has about 6 terabytes of storage. The last element was a 1 gig thumbdrive for the software and the unRAID pro licence which gives me up to 20 drives.

IMG_0237closeup showing the Welland Trays

Installing the software was pretty straightforward. You just need to run a little exe file to make it bootable (note: I wasn’t able to get this to work under Windows 7 Command Prompt, I had to dig up a WinXP machine in our primarily Mac shop to do this step) copy the unRAID software over to the drive and boot up. Now, a couple of things before we get any further, and I wish I had have known to begin with.

1. As unRAID is kind of particular about each drive being in a certain spot, and also, if and when you want to upgrade a drive you really want to know which drive is which so you can tell unRAID when you are pulling a drive to upgrade it or replacing a filed drive. That being said the best way to do this is to log all the serial numbers of the drives. After I had built the system and realised this I pulled all the drives and spent 10 mins with a labeler and labeled every drive as well as logged where it was in the case. Now when a drive fails or I want to upgrade a drive I know where it is and can tell unRAID.

2. Before I built the final system, I tested unRAID on some existing equipment I had lying around and found out that the speed of the computer is important if you are going to have a very big array, as the creation of the parity data takes time and on an aging P4 system it took days and days.

IMG_0238my test rig at home, note the labeled drives and the red light (its still generating parity, days after I started it)

3. The Network adapter is also very important, on that aging system there was a built in gigabit ethernet adapter, however, no matter what I did I could never get it to work faster than 100 megabit. So check the unRAID WIKI for approved NICs

So the system is built and running, my first impressions are. The interface is VERY easy to understand and use, however the concept that for some actions the array needs to be stopped and for others the array needs to be running can get a little confusing first off. Also the initial setup can take a little getting used to in terms of creating the parity drive and formatting the data drives. That being said once all the drives are formatted and the parity drive is a go. Your NAS will appear on your network and people can start dropping data on it.

A few things I did, was to setup custom shares. Basically as the unRAID is effectively a JBOD, you can browse to it in mac or Windows and actually see each of the drives numbered 1,2,3,4 etc. Which is fine, but if you setup a custom share, in my case Archive for instance. You can browse to archive or mount it as a drive, and start dropping data onto it. As far as your system is concerned Archive is actually the size of all the drives combined. So you don’t have to remember did I backup that file to drive 1 or 3. So I simply made shares that matched our SAN mounts and am in the process of setting up an RSYNC each night to each of those shares.

IMG_0233enough lights for a disco!

What don’t I like. Well the time setting option doesn’t seem to want to work all that well. I need to do a bit more research, but so far I cant get it to reliably set the time from an internet time server. Also I have had a few issues with IP addresses, basically for some reason on a Mac you cant punch in the unRAID name and browse to it in your Web Browser to adjust settings, you have to enter the IP address. Now I had originally set it to get an IP from our DHCP server. Once I hard set the IP, now more hassles accessing the admin page.

Backup, RAID and Redundancy

Posted in Misc, Technology with tags , , on June 18, 2009 by evanbutson

OK so most of the people I talk to know how much of a fan of redundant arrays I am, the idea of trusting all your precious work to a single drive that can and often will fail at literally the worst time is scary. Since about 2003 I have stored all my working media on RAID arrays, first RAID 1 arrays and then when I could afford it I upgraded to a RAID 5 array, for those who don’t know a RAID 5 array allows any single drive on your array to fail and you don’t lose any data, you also only lose 1 drives worth of space as compared to half with a RAID 1 array. Now that being said I have seen RAID 5 arrays fail, sometimes for reasons other than a hard drive failing, I have had array controllers themselves go haywire and kill an array, as well as physical failures with  cabling (in my case a bad power cable) that caused three drives to fall out of an array and cause me to lose a whole bunch of my iTunes library. That’s why I don’t just rely on RAID 5 redundancy for my main server, I also have a NAS that my RAID array clones itself to each night, that way, if something terrible happens to my array (touch wood) I still have a backup that is within 24 hours of being current.

That’s all well and good but my NAS isn’t really expandable, and it is not redundant, if a drive in it fails it is toast, so I have for some time been investigating possible solution that wont break the bank. I have tested and was looking at setting up a NAS using FreeNAS, it worked, and was pretty good, but I hadn’t gone as far as rolling it out as two of my hoped for features it didn’t really support, I wanted to be able to use JBOD so that if a drive did fail I didn’t lose all my data at once, and I also wanted the drives to be able to spin down and sleep (my power bill is getting silly), well a helpful episode of Tekzilla yesterday (and also the last sadly) offered a solution, that, whilst not free fulfills all my needs and adds a few things I didn’t even know I wanted.

unRAID by LimeTech is a sollution that sort of sits squarely between RAID 5 and a JBOD NAS. Basically think of it as a JBOD where you have a series of drives (they dont have to match, and can be any size), that appear as one large pool of drive space, the data is written to the first drive in the pool first until it is full and then continues onto the next and so forth, that way if a drive fails you only lose that drives data not everything, this also means that as each drive is not really dependant on another they can all spin down and sleep and thus not use power, and when accessing the data or writing, only the drive that is needed is spun up. Then add a parity drive which gives you RAID 5 like Protection, so that you can lose one of any of the drives in the array and still not lose data, then just swap in a replacement drive that is equal or larger than the failed drive and the data is repaired onto that drive. Best of all it runs off a thumbdrive and has modest hardware requirements. As I said it isnt free, there is a free version that support 3 drives, but for the 16 drive version I want your looking at around $180 AUD. But that, an old motherboard, a big case with a decent power supply and I can start throwing old drives into it as they become free and I have a protected NAS that doesnt draw too much juice.

I will let you know ho my testing goes, just waiting for some free time to go ahead and build the array and then try randomly killing drives to see what happens 🙂

New website

Posted in Misc on March 12, 2009 by evanbutson

Launched a new website today its for the author (and my wife) Kathy Charles

So check it out, and by all means comment on her blog if you like it 🙂