The H6: Zoom's Response to the Tascam DR-60D

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Tascam announced the DR-60D field recorder that is designed with the enthusiast filmmaker in mind. I thought it was one of the three most interesting products at NAB 2013 but, no sooner than the buzz from NAB had began to die down than Zoom returns fire with the announcement of the Zoom H6 at the Musikmesse fair at Frankfurt.

Details are limited but we can see that Zoom has designed the H6 with video applications in mind. Most excitingly it has four on-board, XLR/TRS inputs, expandable to six with an optional, interchangeable XLR/TRS head and it will record all six channels simultaneously and each channel has a dedicated, hardware, level control knob. That's making the Tasam Dr-60D's mere two XLR inputs seem a little paltry by comparison. And that could be Zoom's intention: you might have been just about to order the DR-60D but Zoom's press release will give you pause - if you can wait a little longer, being able to record 6 channels from XLR at once could be worth your patience.

Why would you need so many channels? Options. With 6 channels being able to lav and boom all the talent on set will give you so many more options back in the edit bay. Hopefully you'll be able to input one mic into two channels set at different levels; one dialed back for safety but both from the same source.

But this is just speculation as Zoom haven't announced a shipping date or price yet. If the H6 is adopted by enthusiast filmmakers with as much enthusiasm as they've taken to the H4 over the past few years then Zoom will have another huge hit on their hands. Of course this depends on them pricing the H6 correctly and getting it out to the market before Tascam do any serious damage to Zoom's fan-base.  

Top 3 Most Interesting Products at NAB 2013 for Guerrilla Filmmakers

If you follow video production products and technology you can't help but notice that NAB 2013 has just closed. I was watching the news and press-releases from afar and here are the top 3 products that peeked my interest and that will be of interest to Guerrilla Filmmakers. Perhaps we wont be dashing out to buy these tomorrow but they do give us some insight into the direction that products may be heading in the next year or so:

BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera

No surprise what my top most interesting product of NAB 2013 is: the BlackMagic S16 Pocket Cinema Camera. No surprise it's of interest but I don't think many people saw this one coming. For about a grand you get a pocketable video camera that records with 13 stops of dynamic range in lossless format to cheap SD cards and takes micro-four thirds lenses. Name one filmmaker who isn't intrigued by the idea of a cinema quality camera that fits in your pocket. If it delivers on its promise of being small enough to carry anywhere but flexible enough and adaptable to scale into the heart of a full on film rig, BlackMagic are going to sell thousands! 

The biggest issue I see is BlackMagic's reputation. In my opinion they are the most innovative camera manufacturer out there today - and they are out there. They aren't constrained by decades of previous designs or a huge current camera lineup that they have to be careful slotting into without rocking the boat too much. As a result we are seeing revolutionary cameras from BlackMagic. On the downside, they don't have decades of R&D and manufacturing know-how under their belts and they seem to be rushing their products to market. They're catching a lot of press but they're also getting something of a reputation for shipping beta hardware with an understanding that they'll fix the software at some later date. The jury is still out but I can't wait to read review from real-world users of this camera when it ships this summer.

Tascam DR-60D PCM Recorder

Is Tascam's new field recorder revolutionary or just a DR-40 in a fancy frock? It does share a lot of the features and specifications of the DR-40 but that's not a bad thing. The DR-40 has been over-shadowed by the Zoom H4n although they are very similar and the Tascam is the best part of $100 cheaper than the Zoom. While both the Zoom H4n and DR-40 are used by many, many HDSLR videographers, using them has always been a little tricky as is attaching them to your camera or rig. The DR-60D shows that Tascam has been listening to videographers; the aesthetic and UI both seem perfectly suited filmmakers and there are several features that will be very useful. Currently you can't find the DR-60 for less than retail which, at $350 is $80 more than the street price of a H4n and $150 more than the DR-40. At that price I see a lot of Guerrilla filmmakers sticking with the less convenient form-factor recorders. Once the street price drops $50 or more things will start to be interesting. 

The takeaway here is that manufacturers are listening to enthusiast filmmakers. Hopefully we'll be seeing even more of these kind of products geared towards our use-cases instead of us having to adapt devices not designed for our purposes.

Freefly Movi M10 Gimbal System

At $15000 most guerrilla filmmakers are not going to rush out and buy the much-hyped Movi M10 digitally-stabilized camera gimbal support. It does look amazing though as anyone who has tried to fly their DSLR on a GlideCam without a lot of experience can attest (I count myself among that number). The buzz from the show was that the steadicam operator's days were numbered and, while this is probably a huge exaggeration the promise of being able to run and gun with dolly-like stability is intriguing. Hopefully the M10 is like looking at the new S-class Mercedes you will never be able to afford: many of the features you see in the top of the line Merc that seem space-age today, will be commonplace in a few years. We live in hope.

Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 Goes 64-Bit: Render Errors Finally Solved

A couple of the most read posts I have on this site have to do with overcoming render issues many of us had with Sony Vegas Movie Studio. It was amiss of me not mention that I upgraded to Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 in the summer of 2012 and that it was the first rev of the software I got to render complex projects cleanly without having to hack all those dll files.

There are two big changes in my mind: first they dropped 'Vegas' from the name and second, this consumer level software went 64-bit. Why is 64-bit such a big deal? Most modern versions of Windows are 64-bit and without this feature they are severely limited in the amount of memory they can use. In previous versions of Movie Studio we were running 32-bit programs often on a 64-bit OS. That's OK but it means that the 32-bit program can't use all the memory that you've installed. It also means that when that 32-bit program reaches the limit of the memory it is allowed to use, but it really needs more, strange things can happen and often these resulted in render errors.

Sony made their consumer level product 64-bit and I speculate that this is the main reason that I can render fine in version 12 of Movie Studio. This is why I'm totally recommending this upgrade to anyone on a 64-bit version of windows - it's a small price to pay for the performance and stability gains. That said, it's still not fast. I recently switched to Adobe Premium Production Suite and the combination of Premiere and Media Encoder blows Movie Studio away. But that comparison is a little unfair is the suite costs a fortune compared to Sony's product. If you're looking for a great value NLE I heartily recommend Movie Studio 12.