June 13


In the event anyone is wondering why there have been no new video releases from me, the answer is that since late May, YouTube must have changed the code that drives the upload functions. Whatever that change was, the end result was that my "uploads" go on for an indefinite time, but nothing is ever uploaded. After 24 hours uploading a 6 MB clip, I come in to find that the computer still says "uploading" in the YT upload page.

I've tried three computers and browsers since then and none of them transfer any bytes, even though the page says "uploading".

My last piece of work, a video entitled "Danse Macabre, Organ Version", ended up being uploaded to Break.com and Google video, because of this issue with YouTube's broken upload.

I have made them aware of the matter two months ago, but after several back and forth e-mails, they are blaming it on my DSL provider. I don't buy it.

Whatever YouTube did, it broke the upload feature, at least for my three computers. So until it gets fixed, I will be barred from uploading anything further. I test the upload once a month. It failed again today, so the code is still broken or incompatible with IE 5.5, 6.0 and 7.0, and, if you believe them, AT&T DSL service.



June 16


In the illustrious world of videography, many times the manufacturers of such gear add audio features as if they were an afterthought.. Case in point: Sony's new line of HDV camcorders. Now, I can understand sloppy audio on a cheap consumer camera, especially one with no external mic jack at all. But when a manufacturer goes to the trouble to implement XLR balanced audio, and to go so far as providing individual Phantom-powered jacks, individual 8/16dB attenuators and individual AGC, as well as individual dial-type recording volume controls, one tends to expect that Sony focused some serious attention on the audio. We're thinking, "Finally, a camera where I can attach my $1200 studio condenser mics for some killer audio!"

Not so fast, buckaroo. You're only getting "language lab" quality audio. Yup. If you don't believe me, check the RightMark Audio Analyzer test results. As you can see, this $4800 video camera has a flat response from 1200Hz to 8000Hz. What audiophile would buy an amplifier or any other piece of audio gear with a response like that? I thought so. So why does Sony attempt to shove this crap down our throats?

Judging by the curve, it looks to be that caused by a 1-pole high pass filter. A simple R-C network, basically a tiny DC blocking capacitor in the chain somewhere between the mic pre and the rest of the camera's record circuits. The curve seems to suggest that someone was off by a decimal point or two on the value of a (probably) ceramic chip capacitor. Let's say the circuit called for a 10uF capacitor, but the factory installed a 1uF capacitor instead. So instead of being 3dB down at 20Hz, the camera is down 3dB at 140Hz. But this problem exists across a large serial number range. I have tested two cameras that are pretty far apart on manufacture date and both exhibit the same response curve.

The other thought that comes to mind is that it might be intentional. What if Sony dumbed down the audio on purpose, so as to prevent the camera from competing with their $99,000 CineAlta cameras? In this day and age, it is very difficult to build an audio circuit as bad as this. So I posit the idea that this is by design. If that's the case, then buyers and potential buyers need to let Sony know how we feel about this. Hmmm... no wonder Sony leaves the audio "unspecified" in its specifications for the camera.

So what if you're going to record a marching band on a national holiday? So you hook up your pair of Neuman U87s to a T-bar with a hot shoe mount to the camera. Carefully setting the 48V phantom power to ON for both inputs, and making sure the inputs are split for stereo, you're ready to go capture that rumbling thump of the bass drum as the band marches by. But when you get home and capture the recorded footage, you find out that the chest thumping bass drum has been reduced to the sound of tapping on a paper cup. You could kick yourself for not dragging out the laptop computer, the MotU 896, an inverter and a 12 volt car battery to power a real sound recording system. But this is a parade, and you're mobile, with just your two feet and a camera to get around. What to do?

Well you could get a Zoom H-4 handheld mobile digital field recorder, but now you have the extra work of synching the separate audio to the video, and the sound isn't locked to the video, so the two may drift over time. Not a very elegant solution.

Ultimately, Sony will have to fix this one, just like they fixed a hiss problem on the PD150 some years back. After investing close to $10,000 on a pair of these cameras, I'm not terribly pleased that Sony stabbed us in the back with this joke of an audio system. It's akin, with it's illustrious XLR jacks, of buying what you think to be a Lexus, and when you open the door, you discover that behind the shiny exterior is a Yugo drive train. If Zoom can make a $299 portable recorder that's flat from 2Hz to 39,000Hz, when why can't a $4800 video camera have at least a decent 20-20,000Hz range?

So thus starts my grass roots campaign, to raise public awareness of this problem and try to get enough support so that Sony will have to respond to our numbers. I noticed that the street price of the camera dropped $600 this month. I wonder if this could be the reason? Sluggish sales? Lots of returns? I noticed a lot of "open box" sales on eBay this month. Perhaps I'm not the only one whose been met with the deception of the XLR jack. Just looking at those jacks makes one feel like they're going to get an audiophile-grade sound recording out of the thing. Of course we know that's not the case, but come on... language lab crystal mic quality sound? Now that's the extreme bottom end of things. My daughter's Leapfrog toys have better audio than this camera!


June 26


The quest for better video is a never-ending one. When television was invented, the race was on to improve the picture quality over the years. Cameras got better, and finally color was made commercially-viable in the 1960s. Then came digital video in the 1990s and it was all the rage, even though the color subsampling was only 4:1:1. But for a while, it was "good enough" for event and wedding videographers.

2007 seems to be the year of HD. Now things are changing again, and a plethora of HDV camcorders are on the market. Just as we had gotten used to the 4:1:1 color sampling of DV, enjoying its otherwise artifact-free picture, along comes HDV with its longGOP MPEG2 compression. It requires a different approach to software editing, but the real story is that it brings with it some rather visually-distracting artifacts. I've put together a little page, showing what we're getting into with HDV HERE.




June 27


The tendency to ignore facts and go with gut feelings seems to be more common in the video production world than in other fields. I am rapidly discovering that a lot of people seem to be evading facts and ignoring test results, while stating with hubris that a particular piece of equipment is fine and, in extreme cases, that they are insulted by my test results for that piece of equipment. Am I going nuts, or is there a "cultist" attitude among video professionals?

Another thing that irks me is the fact that so many people irrationally believe that "if you can measure it, you can't hear it"--that a measured problem, such as a gross roll-off of frequency response, is not audible so why nitpick? Do these people really believe this? If this were true, why bother measuring the specifications for anything? These are objective facts, and the tests are repeatable, and in the market where claims have to be backed up with objective proof, specifications are a requirement.

The problem is that even with a growing body of technical evidence that a piece of equipment is not up to snuff, these people act like there is no problem and that the gear is fine--even good enough to win them a technical Grammy and some Emmy's for their work. Furthermore, what I find really amusing is that they accuse me of not knowing how to conduct audio tests! I reserve and do not exercise the option of blasting them verbally over this, because they do not know who I am, or about my extensive professional experience in audio electronics.

There is a disturbing trend though: the tendency of video professionals to simply accept sub-par equipment performance and assume it's "par for the course." This is a counterproductive attitude. Why let companies get away with charging us professional prices for performance that doesn't even attain 1970s cassette recorder performance levels? The really disturbing part is that there is no technical reason for this sub-par performance. An ADC and an op-amp have inherently DC-coupled characteristics. So what's Sony doing rolling off the first five octaves of audio on their professional broadcast cameras? And more worrisome, why are so many people willing to overlook it?

If you bought an amplifier, even a cheap one for $200, and it's response rolled off below 1200Hz, at 6dB/octave, you'd be mad as hell. So why accept this performance from a camera with DIGITAL audio? It seems like the Baby Elephant Syndrome, that story of the baby elephant who grew up tied to a stake in the ground by a piece of rope. As a baby elephant, he wasn't strong enough to break free of the rope. As the elephant grew to adulthood, it stopped trying to break free, believing the rope was still stronger than he was, even though now, at adult size, it could easily break the rope. I suspect video professionals are stuck in a similar mindset: just because camera audio back in the analog days was notoriously bad, they seem to be mired in the tradition that camera audio cannot every be decent in the digital era.

Another thing in play here might be market segmentation. For instance, Sony, wanting to protect sales of it's $103,000 HDW-F900 CineAlta video camera, intentionally neuters the audio on it's $4,800 HVR-V1U. In fact, it's been said that Sony audio is worse than Canon and JVC and Panasonic. I wonder why?

But getting back to the audio tests and the disputes, I find it curious as to why people in this industry are ultra-sensitive, egotistical and combative when someone reveals that their precious video gear has a joke of an audio system. Heaven forbid, my test results can be construed as an insult to the professional intelligence of these illustrious Grammy/Emmy Award-winning video producers. I've even had one gentleman accuse me of insinuating that he was not being honest about this issue. If providing objective test measurements can be construed as 'insinuating dishonesty', then the ability to communicate rationally with some of these professionals is nonexistent.

I need not defend my credentials or knowledge of audio. My credentials are a matter of record with my clients and audio professionals that I work with. Even so, I find it frustrating that there is so much "head buried in sand" attitude about the deficient audio systems built into cameras--especially high end cameras, from these same video professionals.

It seems that what's needed is a re-education of the people of this entire industry. Video has moved from the small black and white TV set with the 3" speaker, to home theater, with a big screen and formidable sound system. So the video acquisition technology needs to track the trend. And sound is 70% of video. If the sound is no good, then the overall experience is seriously compromised.






June 29


I was offloading some of my betacam tapes to digital archives the other day when I came across some old video I produced  with a live switcher in the early 1980s. It was a little trip down memory lane, and the grade of the video gear that was available back then. Of course, editing was all linear, and in this case, done on-the-fly. Now, at the risk of being laughed right off the Internet, I present you, early 1980s jazz jam sessions.

What might be considered interesting about these videos is the fact that just one person operated two cameras, a live effects switcher and all of this was done with my remote zoom controller contraptions that I built for this purpose. I was almost to the point of making robotically-controlled tripod heads, so I could pan and tilt remotely too, but didn't get around to it. But it was fun, and local musicians thought it was a "cool" concept to come in and record in my studio.



June 30


After spending a full day in New York City on Saturday, I and a small group were riding the Metro North Railway back to South Norwalk, CT.

I had my video camera with me, and had been videotaping all over the city. We even rolled tape inside the Museum of Natural History, as well as Grand Central Station, and in the tunnels and railway platforms while waiting for our train. I had my copies of "Photographer's Rights" printed and in my bag, just in case, knowing how unreasonable NYC had become post-9/11, just in case. But we encountered no problems prior to our homebound train ride, so I was relaxed and non-chalant about taping the scenery through the window that I was sitting next to as the train left New York. The car was empty except for my traveling companions who were also in the city to shoot video and take photos.

I was absolutely stunned, when the conductor came by to punch my ticket and told me that videotaping on the train was prohibited. I informed him that public transportation, according to the ACLU law library, was not a prohibited place to conduct photography or videotaping, provided it was done in a manner so as not to disturb other riders. And shooting out the window, with no other riders in the viscinity, certainly bothered no one. I asked him if the railway was privately-owned, because if it was, then I would comply in deference to the right of private property owners to dictate rules. But MTA is a public railway, so no such sovereignty can be granted them and since it is not an act such as initiating physical force against other passengers or staff, then no crime was being committed.

The gentleman was stubborn about the "ban" and, in consideration for my friends, with whom I was carpooling after the train reached our destination, I decided not to turn it into a federal case by resisting and continuing to shoot beautiful hi-def footage of NYC as we were leaving the city. I lost a nice opportunity to get some very nice elevated footage, and it rather ruined part of the intent of the trip.

When I returned home, I researched the law, and it turns out the ban was proposed by the MTA Police, but turned down by the Mayor's office, due to obvious constitutional reasons. The conductor was overstepping his authority by insisting I comply with a nonexistent law.

At this point, I am writing a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, the MTA and the ACLU in carbon copies, expressing my displeasure with the MTA's Soviet-like behavior.

When a tourist cannot take pictures or videotape the scenery through the window he is sitting next to on a train, there is something seriously wrong. This no longer resembles America. It resembles Soviet Russia in the 1950s.