November 13


I have some exciting news: I saw the first pieces of raw footage from the new Sony XDCam EX and it has met or exceeded my expectations and hopes for every aspect of picture quality. A French trade show floor was the setting, and someone shot some footage under awful conditions, but the camera delivered a pixel-sharp image, with no visible chromatic aberration and no barrel distortion.

The footage is encased in an MP4 wrapper, but I was able to play it in Windows Media Player Classic. I routed it to the Vizio 47" FullHD monitor and got a good look at it. There is some text in the distance, advertising a Vegas booth, and that text was so sharp that I could see the boundary between black text and white background to be 1 pixel on my monitor! I have never seen any video camera with this much raw resolution. HDV is a couple or three pixels wide for the sharpest edge, so seeing the footage from the XDCam EX really restored my hope for perfect HD production quality.

That Fujinon lens is incredible! Not only sharp, but rectilinear, too. And though there were plenty of things in that scene to trigger bad chromatic aberration, there was none visible--not even with the sun coming in through a skylight, or direct view of the bulbs on the mercury-vapour arc lamps that illuminated the convention center.

This is from a camera that has a true 1920x1080 actual resolution that is actually recorded to the output file. Just have a look at these frames:

Frame 1  Frame 2

I was able to download the owner's manual from Sony and I have been studying it. The picture controls are way beyond comprehensive. There are dozens of picture parameters in fact. Such subtleties as setting the sharpness for a given tonal range, as opposed to the whole brightness range, as well as setting the radius of sharpening, were just a couple of the controls that stuck in mind. Needless to say, this camera is going to decimate the market.

CNN has over 100 units on order and are due to get them ahead of everyone else. LucasFilms has several on order too. This is one serious camera. I like the picture even more than the Silicon Imaging 2K, a rather costly camera aimed at filmmakers.

As far as I can tell, the XDCam EX will leave NOTHING left to be desired. Even under scrutiny in a frame by frame analysis in PhotoShop, I could find no macroblock noise, no banding, no nothin'! The picture is clean, even when you push open the shadows with Levels in PhotoShop. Simply amazing. My plan is to replace my two HVR-V1Us with these XDCams, as soon as possible. I'm accepting donations now, from any wealthy benefactors who may be reading this. :-)


November 22


I have to rant a bit in this column, so if you don't like rants, you can skip ahead.

Yesterday afternoon, I was out doing some shopping in preparation for a big Thanksgiving dinner that we are hosting at out home. As usual (more about that later), I was sitting at a traffic light, when BOOM!--something hits my vehicle from behind at high speed. The in-dash CD/radio was literally ripped out of the dash and landed in the back seat. The bolts holding my seat to the floor sheared off. Another SUV had collided with the back of mine, with no attempt to brake (no skid marks, no squealing of tires just before impact).

I just was released from the hospital, after a visit to the emergency room, four X-rays and examination of my lower spine by three doctors. The prognosis? No bones were broken, but they cannot say for sure if I'll have back problems due to this accident, say, a year down the road. I was given medication for inflammation and pain and released.

Okay, so I was hit in the rear, big deal. However, this now marks the THIRD time I've been hit--in 2007! The other two were in a supermarket parking lot, while waiting for the light to turn so I could leave, and while waiting for a line of cars in front of me to move. In total, these rear-end collisions started happening to me in 2002. The first time was while I sat in traffic 30 miles from home and some cell-phone talking young dame hits me with her car.

The second time was two days before Christmas 2004, while, you guessed it--waiting in traffic for a red light. The third time was in February 2007, some guy hits me with his pickup truck (the plow hoist dents the back door of my SUV),

Hardly a month goes by, when, while driving my wife's car in the same parking lot, sitting in a line of traffic waiting to exit, a teen driver in his father's SUV, hits my right rear quarter panel.

And now in November of 2007, the worst of the impacts occurs with this lady in her big SUV traveling at-speed, slamming into me with the force of a freight train (or so it felt).

Curiously, the X-ray technician who did my X-rays last night, also mentioned that she, too, had just been hit for the first time this year, after never having had an accident all her life prior.

It seems as if we're entering an era of distracted drivers who cannot seem to pay attention to the road ahead, and are too busy fussing with cell phones, makeup or whatever. I've been hit FIVE times in four years, for Chrissake! What's going on with people of late?

Okay. I'm done. Rant over. I've got to go put another ice pack on my back and go to bed.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And please... drive attentively and safely.