Sunday, June 24, 2012


  President George Washington, in his farewell address in 1796, said "avoid foreign entanglements".  That same advice should apply to the care and handling of your video and audio cables - avoid entanglements.

  The following video shows a cable coiling method that is an "oldie but a goodie".  Anyone that uses cables of more than a couple of feet long should learn and practice the method shown in the video below.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012


  Sony keeps introducing new cameras that lead me lust after them.  This time it is a "point and shoot" digital camera that can only be described as the next generation in point and shoot cameras.

  The DCS-RX100 has some features that set it apart from most of today's pocket-sized digital cameras:

  • It has a 1" CMOS sensor!  That's more than twice as big as any other such camera.
  • It has a manual focus capability via a focus ring.  Some pocket digital cameras have manual focus but which are clumsy to use.
  • It will record in either jpeg or RAW format (or both).  Most small digital cameras only record jpeg images.  Pro users like the RAW format for its ease of manipulation in post.
  My current such pocket camera is the Sony DCS-HX9 which I posted about here.  (It has since been replaced by the DCS-HX10).  The RX100 has many of the same great features of the HX9 - Active Steady Shot that really works well, along with 1920x1080 HD video.

  With the larger sensor and f/1.8 lens, the camera should have a great low-light capability.  The zoom capability is 3.6X which, unfortunately, considerably less that the 16X of the HX9.

  Based on its specs, this camera could really become a "b-roll" video camera, if not the primary video camera when small size is paramount.

  Here's a Sony video about the camera:

  Here's a video review of the camera by

  It's dimensions seem to be actually smaller in height and width by a millimeter or so than the HX9 but thicker because of the lens protrusion even when closed.  But it is still pocket-size!

  I may just have to pre-order one of these things!

  You can pre-order the camera at Amazon here.

  You can pre-order the camera a B&H here.

  Should you order one of these cameras from the preceding links I will receive a small consideration.

Monday, June 4, 2012


  I continue to be impressed by the march of internet technology.  Just a few years ago it required large, expensive equipment to send HD video over the internet.  Now you can do it with a device you can hold in the palm of your hand.

  The Live Shell from Cerevo enables one to "broadcast" HD or SD video over the internet via a local wired or Wi-Fi connection.  If you don't mind the viewers having to watch occasional ads the capability is totally free if you don't count the cost of the device itself and your internet service!  

  I've been testing the device over the past several days and am quite impressed.

  As you can see from the image above the device used for streaming video is hardly larger than a deck of cards.  It connects to your camcorder via a supplied HDMI cable or a supplied composite video and stereo audio cable.  It connects to your local internet via a 10/100 BASE-T wired LAN cable or via an 802.11 b, g, n Wi-Fi connection.  You do the initial setup with a pc or smartphone and then control it from either of those devices.

  The device can be powered by three AA batteries with an estimated three hours of operation time or by an AC adapter for continuous operation.

The device then encodes your video and streams it over the internet for viewing by others by a variety of means.  To share you have the following options.

  • Facebook:  You can embed it on your Facebook page for anyone can view it.  Or add it to their own Facebook page.
  • Twitter:  I'm not that familiar with Twitter but apparently you can have the broadcast viewable on Twitter.
  • Embed on a webpage: You can embed the feed on a web page for anyone to view.  I have an example of this below.
  • Via an internet "stream viewing" service: There are several of these; UStream is the one I'm currently using.

  All of the above viewing services can be used for free.  Of course, using UStream for free subjects the viewers to occasional ads.  Most professional users would probably want to opt for one of paid UStream programs starting at $99 per month and which have no ads.  I'm not particularly pushing the UStream service but it the one the Cerevo shows with their instructions.  They also mention others.


  You control the process via a "dashboard" that you can view from your pc or smartphone.    You get a view of what you are broadcasting plus a set of controls.  (Because the iPhone doesn't support Flash, the dashboard display on the iPhone's browser just shows the controls.  There's a separate app - "UStream" - for the iPhone that will display the video being streamed.)  Here's a sceenshot of the dashboard on my Mac:

  Along the bottom the current bit rate of the broadcast along with the frame rate being used.  If you select "Moving" for the "Object" parameter on the right side of the panel 30 fps is used and if you select "Still" then the broadcast is at 20 fps.  But these settings are upper bounds.  The actual frame rate varies with the amount of motion in the scene.  Even with the "Moving" object setting I've seen the actual frame rate drop to 1 fps (and of course a much smaller bit rate) when there was nothing moving in the frame.

  Controls on the right include a volume control for the broadcast.  The audio broadcast can be that coming from the camcorder or a separate audio fed into the Live Shell along with the video.


  Although the results can be similar, this is not a webcam.  In fact, webcams which are designed to plug into your computer via USB or Firewire won't work with this unit.  You need a video camera with either an HDMI or composite video output.  Plus, the LiveShell does everything that your pc is required to do to broadcast a webcam so you can use it in places that it would not be feasible to use a pc.


  There are lots of potential applications, both personal and professional.  

  For home use, it could come in handy for a temporary surveillance application.  Since you can both control and view the stream from a smartphone you could set up video surveillance of a particular area while away.  Or stream a birthday party to relatives at multiple distant locations.

  Considering the professional applications, one that comes immediately to mind is the "real time" (there's about a 15 second delay in the video) broadcasting of events such as stage plays, dance recitals, and weddings.  One could charge the customer an extra charge for the broadcast which either be to an webpage via an embed, or via one of the streaming services such as UStream.


  I'm currently using my home wi-fi network for broadcasts.  I plan on trying it with my iPhone's 3G service but haven't had a chance yet.  I'll report on that soon.  But unless one has an "unlimited" 3G/4G data plan it wouldn't really be practical to stream more than a limited amount of video using your smartphone's wi-fi "hotspot" capability.

  Here's an example of a video feed embedded on a webpage.  It may or may not be live when you view this web page because I don't plan on keeping the feed live for any particular long time.  But I'll put it up during daylight hours (PDT) for a few days.  I'm using my Sony HXR-MC50 to feed the Live Shell.  You may have to put up with some ads until I decide whether to opt for the paid version of UStream that eliminates the ads.  You can optionally add annotations to the feed as shown below.  You can control the position and size of the annotations.

  Here's link to the UStream broadcast that will be live at the same time the above embed is alive.

  You can download the Live Shell user manual here.

  The Live Shell lists for $299 but you can get it from Amazon for less than that.  If you use the link in this paragraph to acquire one of the devices I'll get a small consideration from Amazon.