Fitbit Flex Wireless Tracker Review
Category: Product Reviews
Published: Friday, 25 October 2013 22:23
The Fitbit Flex is easy to use once you get it out of that atrocious packaging. We found it funny that the little plastic piece inside the package that the Flex band wraps around resembles a TIE Fighter. It's an unfortunate that taking the product out of the packaging results in a heaping mess of plastic, bands and useless manual with tiny print.
Once we sorted things out, charged the flex and snapped it on, things got much better, pretty much just set it and forget. Signing into the web portable and discovering the wireless USB dongle that allows the Flex to synch on its own if very simple.
After that, it's as simple as entering foods and activities and tracking progress while remembering to charge the Flex every few days. We ran, walk and hopped in the Jacuzzi with the flex. We opted to wear the band on the same wrist as our sport watch. Pretty much forgot we were wearing it.
We used the web version of the software and not the smart phone apps. We prefer to check out the data on a PC and it's much easier to input data as well. Seeing the performance data is motivating, especially the "how many glasses of water" data point. None of us drink enough water.
Fitbit is great because it quantifies your daily routine. Even if it's not perfect it's a benchmark to work against. It doesn't really matter if it tallies 5 miles versus 6 or reflects accurately the number of calories burned or consumed. What matters is seeing the numbers in a gross fashion. I'm moving and consuming less or I'm not moving and consuming too much. The data helps keep things heading in the right direction.
The Fitbit Flex feels like a product that should cost $49 or less. Not $99. We'd love to see more aggressive pricing. Maybe fitbit can squeeze some pennies out of that horrible packaging.
Visit fitbit to check out the lineup of wireless trackers.
iZotope RX3 Advanced Review
Published: Wednesday, 23 October 2013 02:18
Izotope RX3 Advanced is an elegantly designed suite of audio restoration tools with a beautiful and intuitive interface that delivers transparent and effective results when used judiciously. We used it both in standalone mode and as a plug-in with Sony Vegas Pro 12. Most tools in the suite worked as a plug-in except for Spectral Repair which had to be run in standalone mode.
Izotope RX3 has become an essential part of our post production workflow. When shooting video we encounter a variety of audio challenges related to the environment, equipment or the performance. Plus there's the crew. We have an awesome network of audio engineers but no one's perfect and audio levels can be too weak or too hot in dynamic situations. So that's a lot of variables to deal with.
The end result of this imperfect sonic wonderland is unwanted hum and noise, rumble, occasional distortion, unwanted reverb and more. It all has to be addressed in post so we can deliver a pristine audio mix with our final video.
In the past we've had mixed results using noise reduction and audio restoration tools because of the artifacts introduced by the algorithms, mainly the phasing and thinning of the sound. The harder the tool was pushed the worse the artifacts got. The results were never really transparent enough to our liking.
Izotope RX3 is a smart prescription for post because it allows you to fix complex problems without introducing artifacts. Yes, if pushed too hard it's easy to do more harm than good, but we generally were able to improve the quality of the audio before introducing unwanted sonic garbage.
We've now used RX3 Advanced on multiple video projects to remove rumble, reverb, HVAC noise..etc. The more we use it the more we appreciate what a powerful tool it is for making our dialogue pop through the mix. The cleaner we can get it the better we're able to sweeten it.
The RX3 noise reduction module does an excellent job removing unwanted hum and white noise from the HVAC. We got excellent results with 10 seconds of room tone as our noise profile. About 6dB of reduction was ideal for removing most of the unwanted noise with minimal artifacts. This was more than enough for projects where a music bed would help mask any remaining noise. We also tested it with shorter noise profile and it worked very well.
In most cases, we were able to use RX3 to improve the audio in a transparent way. Removing reverb from a recording is still very challenging to do and takes more time to dial in. Luckily, the intuitive controls make it easy to simply experiment until you get the desired results.
In general we got the best results by pushing the software until we would start to hear unwanted artifacts and then dialing back a bit, and then maybe a bit more. Interestingly, with the declipper we tended to push it a little harder for the best results. We even ran the audio through a UAD plug-in before the declipper and that yielded good results. So experimentation is very important.
The folks at iZotope have optimized RX3 to take advantage of multicore systems. Our 12 core Xeon test system was pushed to the max and yielded very good performance. Nice to see software like RX3 putting all those cores to work. What use to be an arduous task of cleaning up audio is now a simple batch process that can be done in minutes. It's also been very stable and has not crashed in standalone mode. It did cause occasional problems in plugin mode. We recommend working in standalone mode for most work. Little fixes are fine in plugin mode.
Izotope RX3 Advanced is one of those tools that is best used sparingly with the goal of improving the quality of the audio without giving it an overly processed sound, unless you're going for some sort of effect of course. Super clean is not better than what we would call sonically authentic. For example, we still prefer the sound of a clean FM radio signal to XM radio because of the compression used by XM. To our ears it just sounds bad. It's sterile, compressed and sad. With Izotope RX3 you can make your mixes cleaner but still happy and bright. Taking the time to clean up your mix with a tool like Izotope RX3 is well worth the effort. It's an essential tool for post.
Here you can listen to a sample with and without using the RX3 noise reduction.
Visit Izotope to download a trial version or RX3 Advanced and test it in your post production workflow.
Grass Valley Edius Pro 7 Review
Published: Friday, 20 September 2013 02:41
The good news is Edius 7 should benefit from a more open platform going forward. The bad news is anyone upgrading from recent versions such as 6 or 6.5 will have to get new plug-ins for Edius 7 or wait for current plug-ins to be upgraded to 64-bit. You quickly realize how handy a plug-in like Colorfast or Titler Pro is when you no longer can use it. Plug-in vendor, NewBlue has said an update to Titler Pro is in the works while proDAD has already released service packs for some of its plug-ins. So it appears the 3rd party plug-in support will be there for Edius 7 going forward although we’d like to see more at launch.
Edius 7 is 4k ready. Grass Valley has done a good job of keeping up with codecs and formats over the years. We're starting to see interest in 4k pick up especially with the new found love affair with the Sony FS700. We're seeing this camera more and more on reality shoots. You'll be seenig a lot more slow motion in reality TV as a directy result of this camera. Sure, we're not there yet in terms of 4k playback but it's coming. What HD did to SD 4K will do to HD. In the meantime the ability to have multiple framings and play with the extra pixels in 4k while delivering in 1080p is a real luxury. The layouter in Edius makes this super easy.
Today, the majority of our work is shot using the C300, 5D Mark III and various P2 cams. All of these formats edit like butter in Edius and the Canon XF codec and multi-folder creation of the MXF wrapper is not a problem. Edius is smart enough to scan all folders once you point it to the root. It's fast too. We like seeing that green progress bar float across the screen. Sometimes other NLEs choke on the Canon XF codec resulting in a slower workflow. Cutting C300 footage in Edius 7 is easy.
Edius 7 will take advantage of multiple CPU cores, memory and GPU power. Our roughly two year old test system with dual hex core XEONs, SSDs, 24GB of memory and Quadro K4000 provided excellent real time performance. We also tested Edius 7 on a quad core i7 laptop with 8GBs or memory and it performed very well cutting in the field. Render times were longer of course but Edius 7 does a good job of maximizing the use of available resources. On both systems we only experienced 1 crash and none since updating version 7.2 of Edius. By the way, we were able to install Edius 7 on both our field production PC and our studio workstation using the same serial number without any problems. GPU accelerated transitions and effects look really good and preview in real time.
We expected Edius 7 to have an updated UI mainly for aesthetic reasons but it looks the same as Edius 6-6.5 and the only way we could tell the difference at first glance was an updated splash screen when Edius 7 launches. We're fine with that. Once we get used to using an editor we'd rather not have the controls and UI change too much. What we care most about is performance and stability. Edius continues to deliver on that front. We also no longer have a problem running avast! antivirus in the background. So, that's nice. It's rare that we have an NLE that's not online so the abiilty to run antivirus in the background is important.
The improvements to Edius 7 are mainly under the hood. Filters now support 10-bit color depth and with the right hardware real time 10-bit video output. A key-frameable Gaussian blur filter is also new, cool for rack focus effects. The GPU accelerated transitions and effects built into Edius 7 are very good and work seamlessly. Combined with the 3D Layouter, title effects and color tools you’ve got a very powerful NLE before you even add any plug-ins. The more we get familiar with Edius the more we appreciate how much is built-in to the NLE from the get go. We'd like to see some of the 3D GPU accelerated effects that come standard in Edius be offered in other NLEs.
Edius is still one of our favorite NLEs to cut with. It’s easy to see why Edius has been so popular with news organizations for this reason. When you need to bang out a story quickly Edius is hard to beat. It’s also very good for event and corporate work. It’s easy to learn, and now Edius runs well on Win 7. You can pimp it out with extra hardware if you need to but can easily get by in the field with a reasonably powered laptop. In terms of A-rolling a story and adding transitions, titles and sweetening a basic audio mix it competes well with any NLE and is certainly one of the fastest.
However, when we’re doing more sophisticated compositing with lots of layers, text, media and especially audio we love Edius 7 less. We simply cannot master our audio in Edius and have to round trip the audio to our favorite DAW to make it work. Not a killer but we’d love it if Edius had a stronger audio workflow. The built in effects are actually pretty good and the ability to record fader movements in real time is nice. However, we're more likely to work in Saw Studio and bring the audio back in for critical work.
Edius 7 offers a wide range of options when it comes time to render your project. The HQX codec looks every bit as good as other intermediary codecs such as QuickTime ProRes or AVID DNxHD at similar bit rates and settings. There’s also lots of other pro options such as P2 AVC-Intra 100, XDCAM, MPEG2, H.264 and more. In most cases we’re either delivering a master quality file or uploading to YouTube and Vimeo so the rendering options available in Edius 7 are plenty. If you have the need to regularly provide a wide variety of playback formats you may need a third party program in addition to Edius 7.
So, if you're running Edius 6 or 6.5 should you upgrade now? Maybe. If you're happy with the performance and 8-bit color depth is working for you and you have a variety of 32-bit plug-ins, you may want to hold off for a bit. However, if you've embraced a 64-bit workflow and you want the best possible performance going forward than the upgrade to Edius 7 is a worthwhile investment. If you're committed to Edius as your future NLE then we see no need to wait.
We like the Edius has evolved over the years. We're happy the USB key authorization got abandoned with 6.5 and now Grass Valley is moving forward with 64bit development with the release of Edius 7. We hope the next steps are a subtle UI update and improved audio tools.
Visit Grass Valley for more information and all the specs on Edius 7.
And check out the recently launched Edius World micro site.