Nvidia Quadro P4000 Review

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We like the single slot GPU because it allows us to use all the available PCIe slots in our system, it's not as power hungry as larger two slot designs and we think these cards really hit the price/performance sweet spot. We tested the P4000 in a Supermicro workstation sporting newer components, SSDs and plenty of memory. 


The line between professional and consumer use of advanced GPUs is blurring as players become creators. Once upon a time it was enough to just be a gamer with your specialized rig dominating Fortnite at high frame rates. But these days players like to capture gameplay in OBS and stream on YouTube. When they're not streaming live they might be making tutorials or music mixes featuring game play highlights. Of course, you have to build cool intros and outtros in Afer Effects, Cinema 4D and Blender. And to do that you'll need lots of plug-ins to make your stuff standout.

In this new emerging world of creator/players sharing game experiences and derivative creativity, a GPU that can handle professional apps and gameplay is very attractive. That's where the P4000 shines. You can be an After Effects artist or Cad god by day and still blow off some steam with game play at night, all with a high level of peroformance. That's pretty much what we did with the Quadro P4000.

We ran After Effects, Cinema 4D, Blender, OBS, Fortnite, Roblox, Vegas Creative and myriad orther creative and gaming experiences. What we found was the Quadro P4000 was a reliable workhourse that performed well and performed just fine when running these apps simultaneously. We'd have a render cooking in After Effects while live streaming and recording Fortnite using OBS. No glitches, no delays and smooth as butter at high frame rates.

p4000

Our supermicro workstation has robust mid case cooling and exhaust fans running at quiet levels and did not have to ramp up for extra cooling nor did we hear the quadro fan ramp up during our testing running renders in the background during gameplay. Having a quality power supply, case and good airflow makes for a happy GPU too. So keep that in mind. Small cases with poor cooling and marginal power supplies are not a GPUs best friend.


The Quadro P4000 is a really good choice for a single slot solution that can run professional creative apps and provide a smooth gaming experience as well. For many users there is little need to go beyond this level of peformance unless you've got the budget to spend or truly have the need for extreme GPU performance. Plus we love having all slots available in our system for high end audio cards and DSP processing. Long live the single slot GPU!

Check out the full NVIDIA Quadro lineup here.

Moog Subsequent 37

great demo of this amazing synth

Lynx E22 Versus RME Audio HDSPe AIO - Battle for the Best PCIe Audio Card



When it comes to audio cards that go inside your workstation the options are getting more limited. The PCI slot is getting phased out and most motherboards these days feature PCIe slots. If you’re upgrading to a new workstation you may be forced to upgrade your PCI based audio and DSP cards.

That’s just what we had to do when recently upgraded our workstation. There are countless external audio interfaces in various flavors of USB and Thunderbolt or we could have tried an external PCI chassis connected to one of the PCIe slots. But in the end decided we still prefer the performance of an internal audio card. We narrowed our search down to the Lynx E22 and the RME HDSPe AIO. Turns out, they’re both really good sounding cards.

Several years ago when we tested the Lynx two series versus the RME 9632 and the Lynx was the clear winner. It just sounded better, cleaner, beefier. Well, RME has upped its game and that’s no longer the case. The PCIe based HDSPe AIO sounds great. RME’s drivers are rock solid and continuously updated. Lynx is still the benchmark for pristine audio quality and you can’t go wrong with the new E22 PCIe audio card. But RME is right there in terms of quality and performance and the robust routing options of Total Mix makes it very attractive.

We prefer the Lynx breakout cable. It’s a much cleaner way to move audio to and from the card and connect to an external mixer. The RME HDSPe AIO breakout cable is really just a short trunk that requires at least 4 additional balanced cables to connect to a mixer. We also think this breakout cable should be included instead of the unbalanced version given the $899 price tag. The Lynx E22 comes in at $699 plus another $40 for the cable.  So Lynx is the better deal and overall still the better sounding card but RME is narrowing the gap.  

One final note, If you get one of these cards and add it to a Windows 10 system make sure you optimize the system performance before passing judgement, especially if you have any hardware based plugins from Universal Audio. Windows 10 has been challenging to optimize for audio. We experienced stuttering and buffering issues with both cards across a range of NLE packages that we didn’t experience in previous versions of Windows. We found these audio optimization tips from Native Instruments helpful

We also found this tool really helpful for fixing latency issues. Network cards are a pain.

Amazing A-Frame in LA

yes, at one time, this was a kit you could buy from Sears.

Edius 8.22 Review - Powerful Updates for Post

 

EDIUS 8

Edius 8.22 from Grass Valley is the latest update that adds LUT and tracking support. Both of these features add incredible power for color correction natively in Edius and should make a lot of Edius users happy.

We’ve tested log and 4K footage from broadcast Canon, Panasonic and Sony cameras and the new primary color corrector does a good job of identifying the camera, codec and format and automatically applying a LUT to rec.709 to get us in the ballpark. What’s great is we still have the full power of the color correction tool at our fingertips to further enhance the color. It’s a huge time saver. You can also choose to apply any number of LUTs to jump start your creative juices, all in real time. No there is no need to round trip to Resolve or another color package. The built in capabilities are really good.

The new tracking capability of the mask works really well. Before this was a time consuming task to tweak the key frames to make it perfect. Now, if we want to highlight a portion of the frame, say a person’s face, we can do that with really good tracking capabilities. Again, it will get you in the ballpark with just a few tweaks to make it perfect, and additional video effects can be applies to mask which makes the creative possibilities endless.

Grass Valley didn’t do much to the UI. It’s a little more modern but no major changes there. We like it and find it extremely easy to use. It’s still one of our favorite NLEs for cutting pieces together.

Audio still feels like an afterthought and we’d like to see more robust and friendly ways to do a final mix in Edius. For now we round trip to a more powerful audio suite. 


Grass Valley has not gone the subscription route with their software although it does require the occasional connection to verify the license. Still to come in Edius 8 is optical flow which users have been griping about for some time because it was promised to them over a year ago. The good news is Grass Valley says it’s still in the works and previous updates have come through with worthwhile updates that did not require additional payment

Every editor should add Edius to their tool chest. It’s stable, fast and constantly updated with the support for the latest cameras and codecs. Edius 8.22 is a worthy contender for your everyday NLE and a great companion in the field for acquisition.

Electric Sixer Polarized Sunglasses Review


The Electric Sixer sunglasses are awesome. They’re everything we want in a pair of sunglasses including lightweight, good looking, polarized, comfortable. You can dress ‘em up or dress ‘em down. Italian style in a super functional design for $200 that includes a lifetime frame warranty.

Having a large melon makes it hard to find quality sunglasses that look good. The Electric Sixer features melanin infused polycarbonate lenses that are supposed to make them more comfortable and less fatiguing to wear. So does it actually work? We give it a resounding yes! We put these bad boys on and immediately fell in love. It’s like therapy for the eyes. The world just looks better and we can enjoy the winter sun low in the sky. Can’t wait for summer and hitting the lake.

We’ve used all the top brands of sunglasses over the years and c’mon what else can you say? Do they look good and do they do the job? The Electric Sixer delivers. We just lost a pair of sunglasses we had for about 3 years. We were really sad to see them go and were having a really hard time finding something to replace them. The Electric Six is our new benchmark in sunglasses for quality design, function and style. So yeah, we kind of like them

Specific model we tested is the Electric Sixer Tortoise Shell, Melanin Bronze Polorized Level II, 98% blue light protection, 5 Barrel Hinge, California design, made in Italy

Check 'em out, get the specs and see other cool Electric designs here.

NVIDIA Quadro K4200 Review

We've been doing an extended review of the Quadro K4200 and it's been rock solid. It's quiet, consumes reasonable power and helps accelerate apps that take advantage of the GPU. Since Q4 of 2014 we've been using the K4200 in one of our workstations primarily for digital content creation.

Our primary apps include the Adobe CC suite, Avid Media Composer, Sony Vegas Pro, Edius Pro and various plug-ins from Boris, NewBlue and others. The single slot Quadro K4200 sits right in the sweet spot of price/performance for these kinds of apps.

In a craft production environment, we really like the single slot design because our workstations are also used for audio mixing and mastering and we often require adjacent slots for audio and DSP cards or an SSD accelerator.  

When building a workstation for content creation, two of our main considerations are performance and compatibility. When we initially installed the K4200, Media Composer gave us a warning to revert back to an earlier driver. Of course, our other apps preferred the most recent driver. So it's always possible to encounter some hiccups like this. The good news, over time, after a couple of app and Quadro driver updates all the apps seem to be happy.   Media Composer likes version 340.84 currently.

We like the performance we're getting from the Quadro k4200.  However, we can't say it blew us away compared to the K4000.   The K4000 operated much cooler than it's predecessor while offering improved performance.   The Quadro K4200 offers improved specs and continues on that path but since we're not in Maya all day it's maybe not as noticeable to us.   It really depends on your apps.   So if you're happily chugging along with a k4000 in your editing suite you may want to stick with it.  However, if you're considering a new system or doing more 3D or using an app that really benefits from the increased specs and you're looking for a lot of power in a single slot design the Quadro k4200 should be at the top of your list.

In 2015 we expect to see a nice bump in overall performance with the latest Xeons, DDR4, dropping SSD prices, thunderbolt 2 and generally improved motherboard performance, not to mention Windows 10 might actually not suck.  We're still primarily running Windows 7. The next step is for the OS and content creation apps to truly take advantage of all the processing power provided by the CPU cores and the GPU power in cards such as the Quadro K4200.   4K video is a train in the distance that will run your over before you know it.    Nice to see NVIDIA keeping it real with the Quadro lineup.


Visit NVIDIA for more information and all the specs.

JBL EON206P Portable PA Review

The JBL EON206P portable PA system surprised us with how much sonic punch it packs into a lightweight package. This is a system anyone can easily move around and fire up with 160 watts of power for smallish gigs.

We tested the EON206P in an open office environment. We were easily able to generate enough volume to address 100 plus people. The folks in conference rooms on the perimeter commented that they could hear us just fine as well.

The EON206P is like a carry-on suitcase. The two ends snap apart to reveal the powered mixer. JBL includes cables for connecting to the speakers. When snapping everything back together, there is enough room to store cables inside the recessed cavity of the mixer. This makes for very easy setup and transportation.

The Mixer includes two mic / instrument inputs and a pair of inputs for stereo devices such as a keyboard/drum machine, MP3 player, smart phone, computer. The mic inputs include EQ and Reverb. We bumped up the highs a little when using the SM58. We found it very easy to dial in a quality sound and we were pleasantly surprised by the bass response despite not having a sub hooked up.

We have a couple of meetings coming up where we can really put the EON206P to the test and we’ll add to this review in a couple of weeks. But we wanted to kick it off because we were really impressed right out of the box with the sonic quality of this smallish all-in-one PA.

UPDATE:  After living with this system we're still happy with the purchase.   It's ideal for gatherings when we're playing music, happy hours and need to make some announcements...etc.   The company has grown and we're using a more sophisticated setup when we have multiple presenters and need a proper mixer.  However, this is still the go to unit for smaller gatherings.   

Visit JBL for all the specs and more information.

Panasonic AJ-PX270 Professional HD Camcorder Review



The PX270 is an amazing HD camera for ENG, corporate and documentary work. Over the years we’ve used the DVX100, HVX200, HPX250 and now the AJ-PX270 which is the next evolutionary step in Panasonic’s hand held family of cameras. This camera has very good dynamic range and the ability to achieve shallow depth of field. The AV-Ultra codecs are very robust and the microP2 cars make it very easy to dump footage into your NLE in the field using standard SD card readers. We really like this camera.

The AJ-PX270 is pretty much everything we’ve been asking for from this type of camera aside from 4k resolution. Panasonic has also been slow with the promised firmware upgrade to AVC-ULTRA 200. This higher bit rate will allow for even more robust capture of high speed action such as sports. Panasonic promised the firmware upgrade in 2014. We’re still waiting.

The first thing you notice about the PX270 is how light it is. You can truly operate this camera without a tripod with minimal fatigue. The HVX200 and even the HPX250 were more cumbersome in the field. Anyone still clinging to the HVX200 will be blown away by how easy it is to handle the PX270. The battery is now recessed inside the body of the camera which also makes for a better on-center feel. It also, makes it more comfortable to support the camera with you torso.

All is not sweetness and light however. We’re all for light weight designs but we’d like to see more ruggedized choices for some of the hinges, switches and buttons. We feel we could easily snap off the LCD display, the display buttons and the cheap plastic cover of the P2 slots.

The display and electronic view finder are very good on the PX270. There are a plethora of options for image and quality settings. The menu also has a fast option and a more complete option when you hold the button longer. This is something we had to discover after some frustration trying to dig into the menus.

The PX270 has much improved dynamic range and low light performance compared to the HPX250 and it’s a revelation if you are upgrading from an older camera like the HVX200. We were able to shoot with little to no gain scenes at dusk that would have been mostly noise with prior handheld cameras from Panasonic.

The PX270 is a really great HD camera. You can achieve a variety of looks that range from TV to film and decent shallow depth of field that makes solid choice for an HD handheld around $5k. We love the ergonomics of this camera and the image it captures and we’re comfortable with the P2 workflow. Over the years we’ve seen standard SD, CF cards and SSDs and HDDs all experience hiccups in the field. We’ve yet to have any problems with P2, either full size or micro. That confidence makes shooting with the PX270 feel even better.

UPDATE 2015 January 19:  Panasonic has finally released firmware update that includes the AVC-Intra200 Codec and 1080 30p, 25p and 24p.   You can download the latest firmware for the Panasonic PX270 here.    It's free and will not be a paid upgrade as originally planned.   



Visit Panasonic for more information about the AJ-PX270

Boris FX BCC 9 Review 2014



If you buy only 1 VFX package for your NLE this year we highly recommend Boris Continuum Complete 9 or BCC 9. BCC 9 is available for all major NLEs and it’s packed with goodness to feed your creative mojo. BCC 9 for Sony Vegas Pro has over 200+ filters is easier to use than BCC 8 and includes CUDA and Open CL acceleration. We enjoyed very good performance in our workstation using the Quadro K4200.

We reviewed BCC 8 a couple of years ago so this will be a shorter review but one of the things that bogged us down in BCC 8 was the ability to effectively browse VFX. The FX Browser in BCC 9 is a welcome addition to the suite that makes it much easier to play and test effects. Now we can see previews of VFX over moving video. This is a much faster way to preview FX before we drop them on the timeline and encourages more experimentation which is critical with such a vast and powerful suite.

Just like BCC 8, BCC 9 requires lots of discovery and experimentation to appreciate the power of this suite. A review like this can only scratch the surface. Luckily Boris provides 2,500+ presets to help jump start your creativity. Follow Boris FX on social media and you’ll be treated to some random freebies as well. For example, we grabbed the fireworks preset and whipped up some sound design to make a 4th of July message for our facebook page. It took just a few minutes and added a little something extra to a static message.

We used some Beat Reactor driven lighting effects to bring the open to life in a recruiting video for Houzz. Plus there are countless subtle fixes we use the filters for. For example, we'll often use film process and play with the dynamic range or go for a low contrast look like we did in this special feature on this incredible tree house in Texas. We wanted more a timeless look and BCC 8/9 helped us get it. 

Having this suite in post makes us want to shoot more in 4k S-log and experiment in post versus trying to get the perfect look in the field too.

There’s more to love in BCC 9 including transitions, image restoration, keying, compositing, lens correction (saving some GoPro footage as we type), and the list goes on and on.  John Rafrano put together a nice set of tutorials on BCC 9 for Sony Vegas here so you can a lot of these effects in action.

So if you’re in the market for VFX for your NLE we highly recommend downloading BCC 9. You’ll barely scratch the surface of this powerful suite during the trial but you’ll quickly learn just how powerful this package is.

Visit Boris FX for more information and to grab a trial version of BCC 9.

HP Z230 Workstation Review



The HP Z230 is a single CPU workstation that looks similar to other workstations in the Z family but is much smaller and less expandable. It's quiet and can fit into tighter spaces. The Z230 has an aesthetically pleasing facade but flimsy case that makes it feel like a cheap PC clone. We were expecting a much more substantial feel even in the smaller form factor. In fact, most of the noise that emanates from the Z230 is a low frequency hum of the cheap metal case.

Our test unit featured a 3.4 Ghz i7-4770, 8GB DDR3 RAM, Intel 4600 graphics, 1TB Seagate 7200 HDD and Win 7 pro. Out of the box we found it severely handicapped and immediately upgraded it with a SanDisk Extreme SSD and Quadro card plus a Velociraptor for data. We could easily add two in RAID 0 for even better performance or even go all SSD. The HP Z230 makes it east with one 2.5 bay for an SSD and two 3.5 bays for HDDs. Add a Thunderbolt 2 card and you have even more storage options.

It's kind of silly to sell anything as a workstation for creative professionals that has a hard drive for the OS and program data. After our upgrade the performance was much better in our NLEs and other creative programs.

Like other HP workstations, upgrading the Z230 is very easy. No tools are required and you can be in and out of the case with cards and drives installed in just a couple of minutes. It's tight but there's enough room for a full length video card. There's also a PCI slot to support any legacy products or audio cards you might have. For example our Lynx Two studio card is PCI based and it's still our favorite for laying down tracks.

The HP Z230 is a decent entry level workstation in a small package. It's quiet, performs well and is easy to upgrade. We're disappointed in the cheap feeling case but like the overall design and ease of use. For situations where the budget is tight but a 3 year warranty is attractive, the Z230 makes sense. 

Visit HP for more information and all the specs.

Logitech Harmony 650 Remote Review



The Logitech Harmony 650 Universal remote is super easy to program and works great but is a bit underwhelming ergonomically. Ironically, the remote resembles a unit that Comcast issues with its set top box but doesn't feel as good in the hand to operate. There's too many small buttons which makes it difficult to memorize favorites based on feel. That's disappointing for a $79 retail product.

The Logitech 650 Remote could not be any easier to setup. Download the software, enter the model numbers of the devices you want to control, customize the buttons to your liking and hit the synch button. Done.  Our only complaint here is Logitech's user survey kept popping up. Once would be okay. Every time we run the app is obnoxious.

In use the Harmony 650 works really well. It has multiple one touch buttons near the top of the remote that trigger typical TV activities and of course all of these can be customized to have all your devices do any sort of electronic dance you want. Very easy, very cool.

One of the most important features is the ability to control smart TVs such as Samsung and others. Essentially, these type of smart viewing devices offer deeper menus and the access to online services such as Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and also any personal NAS services you may have in the house. Again, the Harmony 650 worked without any hiccups.

The Harmony 650 retails for $79. We think the software and ease of programming help to justify the cost but would like to see better physical buttons and overall feel in the hand.

Visit Logitech for more information and to check out all the features. 

Sony Vegas Pro 13 Review



Sony Vegas Pro 13 feels a lot like Vegas Pro 12 with some minor updates to the UI. It features a new proxy editing mode that could be useful for ENG style workflows, enhanced audio level monitoring and new collaboration features.

The number one thing we were looking for in Vegas Pro 13 is increased performance, stability and exploitation of multicore and GPU heavy systems for real time editing and faster rendering times. Sony makes no mention of any improvements to the fundamental Vegas engine. In our tests it seems to perform very much like Vegas Pro 12. Projects that experience hiccups in 12 performed just the same in Vegas 13.

Our favorite new feature of Vegas Pro 13 is the multi-tool pop up menu that is now located beneath the timeline. It’s a subtle change that’s implemented in a seamless way that feels instantly familiar and is very handy.  

The CALM loudness meters are a nice addition to Vegas Pro that adds a level of confidence when mastering assets for broadcast distribution. However, considering the Vegas pedigree as an audio platform from the beginning, this should be a rev upgrade to Vegas Pro 11 and 12 users anyway.

Project archiving is useful. Despite our best efforts in the past we always seem to be missing a file in our manually created archives. Again, should have been a rev upgrade.

Vegas Pro Connect seems like the product team was told it had to incorporate a mobile app somehow to make the platform more relevant. We think this feature is good intentioned but would require more work on the client side than necessary. A simple conversation to discuss the edit is faster and easier. We don’t think we’ll ever use this and it’s certainly not a reason to upgrade to Vegas Pro 13.   

Overall we’re unimpressed with Vegas Pro 13. The features we enjoy seem like revision rather than release updates. We’re disappointed because Vegas is still one of our favorite NLEs that we use on a regular basis. The feature set is extremely robust and it's still the most intutive NLE on the market.  In our view Sony missed a major opportunity here. Our advice would be to focus on exploiting workstation horsepower and provide the most versatile and stable NLE on the market. Internally the code name for Vegas 14 should be Kevlar.  The CALM meters, Archiving and Multitool menue are all nice additions but please, no more goofy iPad collaboration features.  

For more information and all the specs visit Sony Creative Software.

Samsung 1TB 840 EVO SSD Review



Samsung 840 EVO 1TB SSD is one of the best values in a high performance SSD. We used it to upgrade a workstation class notebook in two ways. First, we used the included Samsung software to migrate from the existing SSD to the 840 EVO. Next we swapped out the Seagate Momentus drive for the Samsung 840 EVO.

We run multiple video editing programs and the entire Adobe CC suite on our portable workstation. As anticipated the biggest impact was seen after we replaced the 7200RPM with the 840 EVO. A typical editing project may range from a 200GB-600GB. Having the speed of the 840 EVO to more rapidly open, preview and jump around the timeline was certainly worth the added expense.

The 840 EVO does get fairly warm to the touch in operation. Nothing that impacted performance but that speed generates heat. The 1TB features sequential read/write speeds of 540/520 MB/s which is very good and competitive with the highest performing consumer drives available.

Flash memory technology is maturing and manufactures are using creative ways to cram more memory in the same amount of physical space. The 840 EVO uses triple level cell memory. Think of it as an apartment complex with more people living in each apartment. More people in each apartment means more light switches can be turned on and off simultaneously. Of course when you have so many people living so close together things can sometimes go wrong. There's less room to breathe so to speak. That's kind of the argument of why 3D memory might not be as robust SLC or single level cell memory.

The argument is becoming moot as all manufactures are on this tack to reduce costs and stay competitive. Basically, Samsung has found a way for those people, or Bytes of data to peacefully coexist and even thrive in the same amount of space. The 1TB 840 EVO offers a 3 year warranty which is decent for non critical use. With over provisioning and using less of the drive's actual capacity we anticipate good reliability.

Visit Samsung for more information and all the specs on the 1TB 840 EVO SSD.  

Convergent Design Odyssey7Q Review



The Odyssey7Q combines a high quality 7.7 OLED monitor with an SSD based recorder to allow the capture of high bit rate quality codecs such as ProRes, DNxHD, Sony FS700 Raw, Canonc500 4K Raw and other options available via pay firmware upgrades. We used it with the Sony FS700 to capture ProRes HQ at 220Mbps.

The file based workflow is all about flash memory. On our shoot we utilized a variety of flash memory. The Odyssey7Q requires Convergent's branded SSD. We also recorded the native FS700 files to an SD card inside the Sony, glad we did and more on that shortly. The DLSR and Sound Devices recorder used compact flash.

The OLED display on the Odyssey is very nice. It's large enough Before we go any further we have one work of advice for any file based acquisition day, redundancy. We recorded audio to both cameras and the Odyssey7Q as well as the Sound Devices Mixer. We recorded video to both cameras natively and Odyssey7Q.

Our shoot was a series of sit down interviews. Pretty straightforward. Once we were setup we let it rip and then it became more about data management. The Odyssey7Q recorded in chunks of 3.94GB for every 2:45 worth of roll. So after each interview we'd have about 8 files to assemble and cut. The 7D records in 3.99GB chunks for every 13:05. So a couple of files per interview and we'd interrupt the flow periodically to reslate.  With a couple of SSDs it's easy to keep rolling while transferring files.  We highly advise having a system with USB 3.0 to transfer the files and we're looking forward to Thunderbolt in the future.  After a full day of shooting on the two cameras plus redundant files we had 600GB of data to manage.      

The Odyssey7Q was easy to figure out and worked seamlessly for the most part. The 7.7 inch OLED makes for a good size touch screen. However, all is not sweetness and light. We encountered corrupted files for a portion of two of the interviews. Just flat out corrupt files. This is the gotcha in the file based workflow. When it goes bad it's just gone. It's not a few hits in an analog tape. The good news is we had the second camera and the native codec from the FS700 as a backup. However, for a field recorder that's approaching $3K in cost this is not acceptable. It's been years and years of SxS and P2 with and we've never lost a file to corruption. Devices like the Odyssey7Q need to be just as robust. And from our initial field test it appears they're not.

Our advice isn't to shy away from the Oddyssey7Q. This is where things are headed and we expect the folks at Convergent and industry as a whole to make these types of external recorder/displays as rock solid as P2 and SxS. For now remember our keyword for the day, redundancy. As you embrace new technologies that enable you to capture the most brilliant images possible, have a plan in place to capture at least an image, in case you happen to lose a few a long the way.

For more information and all the specs on the Odyssey 7Q visit Convergent Design. 

Pixelan DissolveMaster Review

Pixelan Software’s DissolveMaster provides endless options for creating compelling dissolves that can add production value in subtle ways or be pushed to create interesting effects. We tested DissolveMaster in Sony Vegas Pro 12. The brief 30 second clip above was made by dropping in presets before playing with settings. It comes with myriad presets that can be adjusted with intuitive controls, like shape, glow, color, and percentage of effect.

It’s a clean and easy to use plug-in that also makes it easy to save your favorite presets with a simple right mouse click.  It the video above we used the same seqence and tweaked the settings to create new looks. It's easy to see how quickly you can create your own looks with the presets provided in DissolveMaster. You can spend hours and hours experimenting with DissolveMaster to create your own presents.

The plug-in is hardware accelerated and worked fine on our 2 year old workstation with a Quadro 4000 inside. We tend to primarily use cuts and dissolves in our edits and not a lot of special effects. DissolveMaster gives the dissolves a little something extra. DissolveMaster includes film dissolves, soft directional dissolves, blur dissolves, glow/flash dissolves and endless ways to tweak all the settings. So you can keep it clean and simple or experiment with color changes and visual effects made possible as DissolveMaster organically animates the video.

A well-crafted dissolve can certainly have an impact on the overall quality of your edit and effective story telling. On the flip side it can be a noticeable distraction which is always a pitfall of a new toy. Experimentation and restraint when necessary will lead to success with DissolveMaster. Dissolve Master offers good value at $50 and will get more useful over time as you create your own presets to complement your content. Visit Pixelan Software to find out more and test it with your NLE of choice.

Panasonic KX-TG4744B Phone and Answering Machine



The Panasonic KX-TG4744B is a great 4 handset package with answering machine for under $100. The phones feature DECT 6.0 plus technology, have crisp, clear sound and include some nice ergonomic features making the system intuitive to setup and use right out of the box. The Panasonic design team really did a nice job with the KX-TG4744B packing in features at a very reasonable street price. 

It took us about 10 minutes to unpack everything and get the units charging. Panasonic has opted for regular AAA cell rechargeable batteries. Once the batteries, included by the way, are popped in the phone displays the estimated time required to fully charge the batteries. In this case it was 7 hours.

We didn't wait the full seven. More like three. It was extremely easy to set the date and time and record a personal greeting using one of the handsets. No manual required. We like the light on top of the handset that illuminates whenever a call comes in. The buttons are nice and big with a good feel and fast response. This handset can keep up with speed dialers. The LCD is easy to read.

Call quality is very good. We even had some comments, "are you on a new phone", "you sound different" "I can hear you better". Of course, these days we spend most of our time on the cell phone. But a good landline is nice to have when you need it and the Panasonic KX-TG4744B was a great addition to the office.

If you need a landline and you're looking for a quality handset and answering system package at a reasonable price we highly recommend the KX-TG4744B. In the past year we've tested wireless handsets from Uniden, AT&T and Panasonic in the sub $100 range. This package is our favorite yet. Panasonic really has this down to a science.

Visit Panasonic for more information.

Fitbit Flex Wireless Tracker Review



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.

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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



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

 

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.