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Julian CleophasDecember 18, 20148min50

GoPro, Hero 4 Black Edition, Action Cameras, HDThe unveiling of GoPro’s new Hero 4 Black Edition camera left many, including action camera competitors, marveling by the developments of GoPro’s latest offering!  The pioneers of action cameras, who in 2013 received a Technology and Engineering Emmy Award in the category of ‘Inexpensive Small Rugged HD Camcorders’, were selected for their ground breaking Hero 3 camera technology, which enabled television production professionals to capture amazing perspectives that had never been possible before! Are we really surprised by the award? Well, no!

To start, if you saw GoPro’s Hero 4 Silver Edition camera with built-in LCD at the back, you will probably be a bit disappointed to know that the Black Edition unfortunately does not come with a built-in LCD. However, GoPro’s new Black Edition camera shoots 4K up to 30 frames per second in comparison to other models which shoot 4K video at 15 fps. So what does this mean?Basically, the higher frame rate makes 4K video more usable after shooting, a feature pro Videographers love! Along with the awesome possibilities of 4K, the Black also shoots 1080p HD video at up to 120 frames per second and 12 mega pixel photo’s at 30 frames per second, being the best new feature!

Some of the new developments on GoPro’s black edition include, shooting 2.7K video at speeds up to 50 frames per second, an increase from 30 on the Hero 3+ black edition. The new SuperView feature, captures a taller 4:3 ratio image and brings it down to a 16:9, allowing you to get more in the shot. Along with this GoPro have introduced more modes including 2.7K at 30 fps and 1080P at 80 fps . Just when you thought it could only get better, you were wrong, the only dissapoinment would be that shooting 720P will still be at 120 fps like previous models. But wait there’s more…


To address the low-light issue of prior models, both the Hero 4 Silver and Black have Night Photo and Night Lapse modes. I mean, you must have seen it in the Hero 4 Black promo video! Essentially, this now means that you have manual control over how long the shutter remains open, which is up to 30 seconds for an exposure. Despite how great the image quality is, to be honest, the user interface needed serious attention. The two button navigation system became worse with the evolution of the camera. So GoPro never added  any additional buttons but decided to just remap. So the location of the Wi-Fi button on the side of the camera, now brings up an aware menu for whatever shooting mode in. This now makes changing from video mode, to frame rate or flip to Protune, without having to scroll through thousands of different options.  You’ll be pleased to know that this feature is also available in Photo mode and Multi Shoot mode (including Time-Lapse, Night Lapse and Burst).

The side button just got pimped out! While recording,should something amazing happen, you can just tap the button and a highlight tag is added to that segment of footage. The tag can then be identified on the new version of GoPro’s Studio editing software, which allows you to filter through your highlight tags. So what else got improved? The camera now not only has Wi-Fi but Bluetooth, too. According to GoPro, they have improved the audio system on the Hero4 (both editions) stating that the units have two times the dynamic range compared to previous models. GoPro’s Protune feature gives you high bit rates, RAW-ish video with adjustable parameters for exposure, ISO and colour. This feature is also available in Photo, Time-lapse and Video modes!

For you to make your own decisions check out footage shot with both the Hero 3 + black and 4 black below.

Hero 3+ Black

Hero 4 Black 

To make things easier you will be pleased to find Gopro’s Video Resolution Chart below thanks to Peta Pixel.

GoPro Hero 4 Black Video Resolution Chart

Overall, GoPro destroys any action camera out there in the world. The only dissapointment would have to be that there’s no improvement on battery life. In fact, the new batteries are 1160mAh in comparison to the old ones of 1180mAh. If you thought you could keep your old batteries, forget it, as the new batteries have a different shape. To conclude the new Hero 4 Black edition is estimated at +- R 7 400 Ex VAt and is available at Orms, Cape Union Mart and Visual Impact to name a few.


Julian CleophasDecember 5, 20149min6

Convergent Design, Odyssey 7Q, External Recorder, Monitor, 4K, For most people hearing the name 7Q, the first thought that comes to mind is an Audi motor car but in the film industry, we actually mean Convergent Designs Odyssey 7Q external recorder! Convergent Design’s (CD) Odyssey 7Q External Recorder was one of the most exciting announcements to come from the makers of the ‘Gemini 4:4:4’ and Nano Flash recorder, who unveiled their latest offering at  NAB Show 2013. CD’s latest offering was well received, even winning a DV Black Diamond Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Advancement of Video Technology!

CD’s Odyssey 7 series comprises of two models; the Odyssey 7 and 7Q which only differ on their recording capabilities. The Odyssey 7Q had been our main focus as it was touted as a versatile external recorder, capable of recording various codecs including 4K RAW! So what’s the big fuss? Well, the Odyssey devices boasts a 7.7inch 1280 X 800 OLED monitor with fantastic high end monitor display features like waveform, zebras, histogram, Vector scope, Focus Assist, False colour, Time code display, LUT’s, Audio level metres and 1:1 Pixel mode. The Odyssey 7Q is capable of adding options for recording to various camera formats including ARRI RAW, Canon C500 Raw, Sony FS700 and more.

The most popular camera probably to pair with the 7Q, has been Sony’s FS 700. Reason being, it’s the lightest, most economical, lowest power draw RAW recording solution for Sony’s FS700. At first, the 7Q and Sony’s FS700 RAW recording combo had been limited to 2K, which meant users had to buy Sony’s AXS-R5 recorder and HXR-IFR5 interface if you wanted 4K.  A feature missed by CD, was the ability to record compressed formats despite the benefits of RAW, FS700 users don’t want hassles of workflow and storage that come with it. Based on feedback, CD listened and announced they will support 4K RAW recording via a firmware update, provided the $795 Sony RAW option is installed. To accommodate users, Sony has officially given CD access to 4K Raw from Sony’s FS 700.

Check out CD official press info below:

Convergent Design, Odyssey 7Q, Sony, FS700, External Recorder

“Convergent Design’s Odyssey 7Q is the most capable portable monitor/recorder on the market. It can capture and display the signals from more camera systems than any other product. That capability will soon be increased even more as we announce that recording of the 4K RAW signal from the Sony NEX FS700 will be available in the Odyssey 7Q.4K RAW recording will be part of the FS700 record option on the Odyssey 7Q. It will be made available as part of the upcoming February 2014 Firmware update on the Odyssey 7Q. Any current owner of the FS 700 record option, will receive the 4K RAW capability as part of the firmware update and at no additional cost.”

At the time of press release, the firmware update had not been available but had been launched earlier this year. In 4K RAW you will be able to record continuously at up to 60P with high speed 120P in a four second burst mode. So what can you expect? This essentially means that the Odyssey 7Q can now capture all of the digital outputs of Sony’s FS700 along with the addition of Sony’s 4K RAW native. The highest resolution capable of the FS 700’s camera sensor is 4096 X 2160. 4K RAW is captured in Cinema DNG format as full uncompressed files onto the Odyssey 7Q’s SSD drives. The ability to use 4K DNG RAW with the 7Q is awesome but bear in mind that means limited recording times, extra storage space and a not so easy work flow process. CD’s Odyssey 7Q will soon accept the 4K RAW signal, transform it to 4k video and super sample it down to a quality 1080P HD Video. The HD video is then recorded into Pro Res in the 10-bit 4:2:2 HQ quality at 220 mbps, which is a huge improvement on the cameras internal 8-bit, 4:20 AVCHD at 25mbps. Another great advantage, is that up to 4 HD cameras can be connected to one recorder and then tether multiple recorders together,making it ideal for multi-camera functions and concerts! For more on CD’s Odyssey 7Q, checkout Mathew Allard’s in depth review!

To conclude CD‘s 7Q external recorder is quite an impressive piece of equipment, which is not just a quality external recorder but also a very capable professional portable monitor as well! The 7Q costs around +- R57 000 and can be found at Puma Video, Visual Impact South Africa and Time Slice Cinematography to name a few.


Julian CleophasJuly 23, 20147min40

Sony’s latest offering the PMW-400, a 2/3-inch type Exmor sensor XDCAM camcorder; recording Full HD 422 at 50Mbps had officially replaced Sony’s PMW-350, as announced in April 2013. The extremely popular freelance camcorder was one of the first affordable solid-state recording systems that supported 2/3-inch glass.

The new shoulder-mounted PMW-400 has great low-light sensitivity of F12 at 59.94Hz and F13 at 50Hz. Now, the 400 saw big changes in terms of what the camera records in, which for the 350 was MPEG-2 at 35Mbps, essentially limiting the types of productions it could be used on.  You will be pleased to know that the PMW-400 includes all the codecs as the PMW 500, so what does this mean? Well, it means that it will record MPEG-2 HD422 at 50Mbps, but wait there’s more!

 The launch of Sony’s F5 and F55 cameras also saw the release of Sony’s XAVC codec, which comes ready on the PMW-400; along with the 2014 summer firmware upgrade which will enable Intra frame of 100Mbps. The XAVC codec inclusion to the PMW 400, gives the camera much longevity as possible for owners.  The implementations launch at NAB Show 2014, received positive responses, after indicating that it will be a free upgrade.

So what do you get with the PMW-400?

Firstly, Sony’s latest offering has two versions; the L version comes without a lens and K version with a Fujinon 16X zoom HD lens. XAVC is Sony’s application of the H.264 standard, where Sony uses level 5.2. This essentially allows a single format that is capable of handling High Frame-Rate (HFR) HD and 4K imaging, already used on Sony’s F5 and F55 cameras.

 Sony Europe’s Head of Strategic Marketing, Fabien Pisano said,

We’ve designed the PMW-400 to acquire high quality, clean images especially in low-light environments. It’s very ergonomically balanced, easy to operate and includes features that make it fit seamlessly into various types of productions and workflows. This really opens up new opportunities around cost efficiency and flexible shooting to achieve the desired results.”

When Sony developed the PMW-400 they had in mind an ENG camera with better versatility in the field, as well as it being a highly capable studio camera. Along with this option was the introduction of the free firmware upgrade in November 2013 for their Flash Band Reducer. Those familiar with CMOS sensor cameras, will know that flash banding can tremendously affect recording. To safeguard from this, Sony announced the PMW-400 will have a built in flash band reduction algorithm that will counteract footage before it is recorded. This option essentially makes the camera a valuable field asset, not forgetting that it was developed with the studio environment in consideration.

The PMW 400 comes equipped with 2 SDI outputs for multiple video devices, offering an optional CBK-CE01 interface, allowing the camera to connect to either Sony’s CA-FB70 optical fiber adaptor or the CA-TX70 digital triax adapters. In a nutshell, with these connections you will transmit high quality signals over great distances using the PMW-400, just as you would any CCU in a studio location.

Sony’s PMW 400 Facts:

  • The low res VGA viewfinder of the PMW-350 had been replaced with a ¼ full HD 960X540 pixel resolution, resulting in better contrast and greater viewing angles.
  • Battery life of approx. 180 minutes with BP-L80S compared to 310 minutes with BP-GL95 on the PMW-350
  • Camcorder allows for live logging from a tablet or smart phone via Wifi. If the new CBK-WA100 wireless adaptor is added, content can be wirelessly uploaded via ftp to a server or cloud service via 3G/4G mobile phone network.
  • Recording to SXS  Memory Cards
  • Supports all current SD & HD 4:2:2 broadcast workflows based XDCAM EX using the MP4 & AVI codecs( Including MPEG-2 HD 422 @50Mbps
  • SD CARD or XQD Cards (FAT32)
  • Records .MXF broadcast files on SXS & XQD cards (UDF formatted)
  • New 3DNR noise reduction processing system, giving a signal to noise ratio of 60 dB
  •  Wide gain selection range from -3dB up to +42dB maximum
  • Supports the New XAVC codec to offer 10-Bit HD 4:2:2 100Mbps and XAVC Long GOP 10-Bit (low bit rate)- although limited to 25P or 30P in HD (naturally, 4K is not supported)
  • MPEG IMX @ 50Mbps and DV CAM
  • HD 420 @ 35 Mbps or 25 Mbps

To conclude, Sony’s PMW-400-K is estimated at +- R180 000 and PMW-400-L at +- R147 000 Ex Vat. Being fairly new to the South African landscape, the  400’s can only be found at Visual Impact South Africa (Cape Town & Johannesburg), Timeframe (JHB) and Puma Video (JHB) at this moment.  As time passes, we should see more of these cameras available at dealers and rental houses.