After Dinner still After Dinner won 1st price in the category of video-art at Kort Geknipt 2006! I got a cool black sheep, handed out by Alex Callier of Hooverphonic fame.

After Dinner heeft de eerste prijs gewonnen in de categorie videokunst op Kort Geknipt 2006! Ik heb een neig zwart schaap gewonnen dat mij persoonlijk overhandigd is door Alex Callier. Voor de mensen die van mijn belabberde bedankje niets hebben verstaan: ik ben heel blij dat er 250 man naar mijn – en alle andere kortfilms is komen kijken. Ik maak geen films voor prijzen maar voor een publiek.

* Step Right Up, Tom Waits

Oktava MK-012Based on multiple favorable reviews on and, I bought myself an Oktava MK-012, a cheap multi-capsule pen-type microphone. It comes with an omnidirectional, cardoid and hypercardoid capsule, of which the latter is the most interesting for videographers. I bought this microphone primary for indoor use because I wasn’t really happy with the sound of our schools Sennheiser 416 indoor. I’ve been using it for a few movies. Here’s my verdict:

The good: it works and it hasn’t failed yet. The sound is nice and detailed but is has more bass than I would like. It sounds a lot better than the Røde Videomic. Basically, what has been said on and is true: it’s a good mic for its price.

The bad: The Oktava MK-012 is extremely susceptible to handling noise and wind noise. Basically you can not use this mic without good wind protection and a good shockmount, all of which will cost you more than the mic itself. I’ve been using the mic either on a mic stand or harnessed in our schools Rycote Full Windshields system (aka Rycote Zeppelin) and even than it was hard not to make any handling noise. It’s enough to touch the microphone cable with the mic standing on a mic stand to ruin the recording. Don’t even think about mounting this microphone to your camera (you wouldn’t want to do that anyway…) and don’t think you can get away without wind protection indoors unless the mic is imobile. One – admittedly close – recording of a caged bird was ruined by the wind of the birds wings flapping.

After a long and good vacation I find myself back sitting after my desk with lots of things to do and a few things to write about. You may expect a few equipment reviews and a new movie…

Slaapkop stillLast year I made this simple movie together with the actors from youth theatre group “De Strontvliegen” whom I’ve been directing in 4 stage plays. The movie took us 2.5 hours, from conception to final shot, but the end result is fun nevertheless. Editing took a bit longer, mostly due to the slowness of my old PowerMac G4. The compression to H.264 alone took about 25 hours. Yesterdays hardware with todays software ain’t much fun…

It’s also the first time ever I’ve been editing HDV material. Guess what: my computer is too slow to play 1080i50 HDV fluently. But I’ve been able save a few shots where I wasn’t close enough by zooming into the High Definition material, up to 200%. I don’t think you’ll be able to spot the digital zooms since my main timeline was SD.

Enjoy it.

Slaapkop is een eenvoudige film die ik verleden jaar samen met de acteurs van jeugdtheatergroep “De Strontvliegen” gedraaid heb. We zijn van nul begonnen, hebben een eenvoudig verhaaltje bedacht en twee-en-een-half uur later was de film opgenomen. Geniet ervan!

After Dinner stillIt’s been a while seen I’ve shown a movie. This one called After Dinner has been quite long in the making. Both the shooting and the edit took quite some time.

The shooting took place in november 2004. We shot on and off for about 5 days inside the Hnita Jazz club. The crew consisted of Reinout (the hunter), Diana (the deer) and me, and it most certainly was too small. Being the camera operator, director, gaffer and grip all at once made the shoot more complex and tiring than it needed to be.

The thing I really like is the atmosphere we were able to create with a dozen plants, a few 500W spots and two projectors. None of the movie was filmed outside and no green screen or blue screen tricks were used, although there is some silly CGI at the end.

But above all I like the song. So what are you waiting for?

for people living in Europe.

Chances are big that you’ve crossed some heated discussion about the 24p capabilities of different cameras if you’re looking for a new camera yourself. This is just a quick note to let you know that 24p doesn’t matter at all in Europe.

Americans are used to material with to 2 different frame rates: film originated material at 24 fps and video at 30 fps (interlaced or progressive). Of course, the NTSC system can not display 24 frames per seconds, it’s strictly 60i. Therefore, 24p material gets subjected to what they call 2:3 pulldown. That is one frame will be split over two (2) fields or three (3) fields alternively. Adam Wilt has a very nice explanation here. I’ve never seen the result of this 2:3 pulldown process but I imagine it looks pretty strange.

Anyway, the important thing to notice is: Americans can immediately distinguish film originated material from straight TV because of the strange cadence that’s associated with film. Now every filmmaker want his stuff to look like a movie, not some sitcom. That’s why there’s a big demand for cameras with a 24p capability. This is what a 24p capable camera ideally does: it aquires images at 24p and adds the 2:3 pulldown when the footage is written to tape. Advanced 24p capable cameras add some special kind of pull down (2:3:3:2) which makes it easier to reclaim the original 24 frames. Being the first with a cheap 24p capable camera, the AVG-DVX100, was the big breakthrough for Panasonic in the USA.

Nobody ever watches footage at 24 fps outside the cinema in Europe. Film shown on TV or DVD is shown at 25 fps. This is a 4% speedup but I doubt anyone really notices. Since there isn’t any frame rate difference between film and video, there’s no incentive at all for a 24p capable camera. You just don’t need it, not even in the unlikely case that your movie will be printed to film. You can always slow your footage down from 25 to 24 fps, but you can’t display 24p footage on any TV nor put it on a DVD. The European version of the above mentioned DVX100 didn’t even have a 24p capability (and it didn’t do as well as the American version since the rest of its features were comparable to other cameras).

There is an important distinction between progressive and interlaced capture though. If you’re looking for the most movie like camera, you need one that’s capable of progressive capture. You can however convert interlaced footage to progressive with tools like Nattress film effects or DV Film maker or Compressor. The results are passable. Be warned that not everybody likes the choppy look of progressive material.

On an unrelated side note, it has been confirmed that Panasonic’s new HVX200 camera has 960×540 pixel CCD’s which it upsamples to 1280×1080 in 1080p mode. I think that this partly explains the low resolution of the camera as observed earlier. I don’t think there’s any use in using the camera out of 720p.

Lots of people have been saying that Europe would learn from the HD experience in America and choose one, and only one, HD format as opposed to ATSC which defines about 18 different formats. The question has always been: which one? 720p50 or 1080i50?

Well, this being Europe, the answer is what I would expect: both formats are allowed. While the EBU is all for 720p50, the reality is that:

  1. Europe’s first HD station, Euro1080, broadcasts 1080i only.
  2. Sky HD in the UK broadcasts 720p and 1080i.
  3. EICTA, an assocation of the mayor European consumer electronics manufacturers, announced an HD TV and HD Ready logo program. The minimum requirements for an HD Ready TV display are: being able to display 720p50, 720p60, 1080i50 and 1080i60. An HD TV labeled HD receiver must support 720p50 and 1080i50 in the form of an MPEG 2 or MPEG 4 AVC compressed stream. I don’t know why they didn’t include 720p60 and 1080i60 in the HD TV requirements, nor do I know why the receiver must be called HD TV and the display HD Ready.

I believe that the logo program by EICTA is far more important than whatever the EBU has to say. The EBU is primary a union of the old, once state owned, now heavily subsidized, national broadcasters. Commercial TV stations take no part in it, although they will most likely spearhead the HD revolution since the national broadcasters are obliged to reach the largest audience possible in the most economical way.

Another believe of mine is that 1280×720 is not a big enough step above PAL’s 720×576 resolution, especialy since most TV’s are 16:9 now and thus have a 1024×576 equivalent square pixel size. 1080 line displays will sell a lot easier. Remember, HD isn’t even born over here. I’ve yet to meet someone with an HD (Ready) TV.

Recently, a “shootout” with 4 affordable HD cameras and 2 not so affordable HD cameras was conducted by Adam Wilt, Barry Green and others. The camera’s included were: a Canon XL-H1 ($10000), JVC HD-100 ($5500), Panasonic HVX-200 ($6000 + storage costs) and a Sony Z1 ($5000). The not so affordable cameras were a Sony F900 (CineAlta) (+ $50000) and a Panasonic Varicam. Adam Wilt’s write up can be found on (registration required, look for an article called “Four Affordable HD Camcorders Compared”). Barry Green’s take and subsequent responses can be found in this 43 page thread.

I’m not going to repeat everything written about the shootout but I’ll point out some things that interest me instead. Number one being resolution: the 4 affordable camcorders all have 1/3 inch CCDs. They’re trying to create a 1920×1080 pixel image out of a 4.8×3.6 mm imaging area, and it seems they’re hitting the limit of what affordable lenses can do at the moment. It doesn’t surprise me that the Canon and JVC come out at the top. Both have interchangeable lenses. Canon is a well respected lens maker and the JVC has a Fujinon lens. Even though, the Canon tops out at 800 horizontal TV lines and 700 vertical lines, the JVC measures at 700 H and 700 V (it’s only recording at 1280×720), the Sony at 550 H and 700 V and the Panasonic trails at 550 H and 540 V (Adam Wilt’s numbers, with reserve about the Panasonic). This means that the image from the Panasonic could very well be recorded at DV resolution, the Sony would lose some vertical resolution if we did and the Canon and JVC would lose some more. But they’re nowhere near the CineAlta’s > 1000 H and > 1000 V numbers. No wonder people call them half HD or 1.5 SD cameras.

I wonder what people will think of footage shot with any of these cameras once they’re used to real 1080i material shown on a native 1080 line monitor. That doesn’t mean the footage shot with these cameras isn’t better than DV at all – it is – but I think most viewers are a bit too optimistic considering almost all HDTV’s sold right now are in the 1386×768 range. — Side note: I don’t talk about 720p because I don’t believe it’s going to make a dent in Europe at all. It’s too close to PAL resolution and thus won’t be enough of an incentive to get people to buy new TV’s — IMHO, if you’re buying any of these cameras aside from the Canon, don’t do it for the HD factor but because you can deliver a sharper SD sized image. It’s the only thing that makes sense in Europe anyway.

Next up is gain. Adam Wilt measured the 6 cameras at somewhere between 320 and 160 ISO. The Sony Z1 trailed the pack at 160 ISO and the Panasonic HVX-200 leads at 320. Various people commented on how the Panasonic is somewhat noisy and the Sony being the cleanest of them all. Some people even start talking about cinematic noise vs. video noise, but the truth is that you can’t rely on gain numbers and sensitivity numbers at all. To me, the Panasonic HVX-200 and older Panasonic DVX-100 shots I’ve seen look like they’re shot with about 6 to 12 dB of gain. They’re not, but I think Panasonic is willing to boost the output of the CCDs a far bit more to be able to be the low light sensitivity champion. The sad thing about this is that you can not turn this “boost” off, so you’ll always have some kind of noise in your picture. Truth to be said, Canon does offer a -3 dB mode that does exactly that.

Last but not least is Depth of Field (DOF). 1/3 inch cameras offer such a large DOF that it’s very difficult to create “cinematic” images with them. That why a lot of people are turning towards 35 mm adapters. A 35 mm adapter consists of a moving groundglass, a lens for a 35mm stills camera projecting an image on the ground glass and a macro lens to be able to focus your camera on projected image. It’s a bit like filming a movie projection. Trouble is, said adapters cause you to lose a lot of light (about 1.5 to 2 stops, people talk about 60 ISO equivalent for an Canon XL2 with a $10000 P+S Technik Mini35 system) and most of the footage shown is really soft. I’ll be trying one later this year, but I think most of the resolution you win with these affordable HD cameras will be downright lost once you put a 35 mm adapter in front of them.

Another thing that I found remarkable is the fact the JVC-HD100 behaved a lot better than what you would expect from its modest tech specs. It looks like JVC is a bit under the radar for most people considering a camera purchase, but I have to say that I’m really impressed by the JVC-DV5000 we use at school. In fact, if you’re looking for a sub $10000 camera in Europe and you don’t mind the weight and heft of a real broadcast camera, try the JVC-DV5000 or 5100. You’ll have better low light performance, a real broadcast lens and you look professional too.

Just a quick word for anyone else in Belgium trying to install the Belgacom ADSL starter kit on a Mac. The kit includes a Speedtouch 330 USB ADSL modem. Here’s what’s wrong with it:

  1. The drivers that are included will not work on any recent Mac. They’re 4 years old and they’re written for Mac OS X 10.1. On top of this, the documentation is totally outdated. Download new drivers here.
  2. You may need to install the BSD subsystem if you haven’t already. It’s on one of Apple’s install disks. The reason for this is unclear. It looks like some part of the modem’s initialisation script uses grep.

On top of this, the account management system

  1. uses a certificate issued by CertiPost. CertiPost (a division of the Belgian Postal Services) may deliver some worthwile services, but issuing certificates without being a trusted certificate authority isn’t one of them. This means that you will have to put up with a warning about a potentially insecure site every time you enter the management page. It also means that will be a lot easier for someone to build a spoof site to collect your account information.
  2. doesn’t seem to work in either Safari or Internet Explorer 5.2 for Mac. At least, it didn’t on 2006-01-27.

The problems with the modem can be solved by buying or renting a model with Ethernet instead of USB. ADSL modems with an Ethernet connection are by default compatible with Mac OS X. You won’t have to install any software. You will be able to connect the modem to an Airport base station or any other broadband router.

The problems with the account management page are insurmountable.

FYI, Telenet works without problems and is quite a bit faster.

Not one lonely romantic ruin but 3 fuckups:

  1. I nearly ruined a shoot where I was the sound recordist by forgetting the 9V batteries I bought the day before. I thought I was well prepaired since I had two pairs of rechargables and a new fresh Duracell pair for the Shure FP-33 field mixer. After one and half hour the first rechargable pair gave up. The next pair called in sick – no juice, I presume because of the freezing cold. It turned out that the fresh batteries were lying safely at home while we were in a snow covered field about an hour away from civilisation. We were able to continue shooting while Anthony went looking for batteries because I had my new Røde Videomic with me. It won’t sound the same but it’s possible we only need one line.
  2. I fucked up a potentially good film. The circumstances were far from ideal but anyway, I fucked up and I’m not over it yet.
  3. Scumbags are ruining the internet. Not only do they see it fit to send me 100 to 150 spam mails a day but they discovered my blog too. I have to delete about 20 comments each day since last week. That’s why you find a link for Online Poker ? in the footer of every page. Don’t worry, the link will just take you to Wikipedia. The idea is to screw up the google search results for anyone looking for Online Poker. Hit the question mark for a more detailed explanation.

I guess posts like these make me a real blogger.