World Maker Faire in NYC

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I was able to attend the World Maker Faire this year in NYC. It was an excellent and well attended event. As one might imagine there was a focus on 3D Printing, Laser Cutting, CNC routing and other fabrication technologies. We say products from brand new start-ups to seasoned industry veterans like Durham’s own ShopBot. […]


The FLIR One imaging system began shipping last week (

Alternative sensor tech is a very interesting subject for production engineers. For years I have been ripping my apart my camera bodies to strip out the cut filters that limit my images to the visible spectrum. Indeed I have a T2i body just for IR and one for full spectrum. But what has always alluded me was the ability to shoot thermal images. There have been projects where the creative use of such tech could have provided unique views in documentary pieces.

FLIR is a household name at this point and the industry leader in thermal imaging but up until last week the prices have been prohibitive (starting at a $1000 for a very basic unit). Their new system, the FLIR One, changes all of that. It’s basically a slip on cover that interfaces with an iPhone 5/5s. The One uses the iPhone’s processing power while providing their own proprietary cameras for the image collection.

PTZ Shootout – Part 2 – The Results

The results are in!  The winner of our PTZ Blind Shootout was the Panasonic AW-HE60.  A close runner up was the Sony BRCZ-330, losing by just a vote.  This was a ranking vote so the actual gap was just .2 between these two cameras.  Third place was the Cisco Precision HD camera (ships with Cisco Codecs).  Fourth place went to…the Logitech BRC900.  And in a surprise the Vaddio HD19 was least selected.

Thank you to those who took the time to participate in our demo.  Several people also emailed me off line with thoughts to share and we really appreciate the comments.

Now that the blind test is done; we’ve labeled the video with the camera’s names, take a second look!

Numbers don’t tell the whole story and we do have additional thoughts to share:

  • Given its broad use around Duke, we were surprised at the relatively poor performance of the Vaddio HD19.  In blind testing, a $200 Logitech web cam was reviewed higher than the $4000 (street price) HD19.  Although Vaddio’s focus is relatively low cost cameras for the conference and classroom, sometimes these cameras end up in production spaces.  The video clearly demonstrates that the picture quality of the Vaddio camera is not of the same quality as the others tested.  In years past there was a large cost gap between higher end products like those from Sony and Panasonic relative to manufacturers like Vaddio.  Today the Sony and Panasonic cameras we tested are actually very close to the same price point as the HD19.  With the very poor showing of the Vaddio, it would be difficult to recommend this camera in any situation except perhaps where it would be directly replacing an already integrated camera of the same type.  Additionally, it is possible to tune the Vaddio, our tests revolved around testing the camera in “full auto mode”.  In almost all cases we would recommend not using this camera with automated settings.
  • The Sony and Panasonic we’re almost virtually indistinguishable.  The Sony won out in our viewers minds for the low light use while most people thought the Panasonic had the more crisp image.  The cameras actually tied in color quality.
  • Our viewers obviously weren’t able to test the PTZ movement of the cameras so we’ll offer our opinion.  The Sony had the best and most precise movement.  It was a dream to use, like driving a Cadillac.  The Panasonic was good but not as good as the Sony.  In spite of video quality concerns, the Vaddio actually “drove” well in our tests.  Though it is a larger, heavier camera and seemed to “coast” a bit in the PTZ action.  Diagonal movement in the Vaddio was also not as good as the Panasonic or Sony.
  • The Cisco Precision HD is actually a really decent camera, another surprise from the test.  HDMI and HDSDI built-in outputs are an added bonus.  The camera “drives” like a dump truck and has back focus issues that considerably trouble the auto-focus intelligence but that’s fine for off-air movement.  It also has amazing wide angle performance.  It has a great field of view while very little distortion.
  • Of other note is the web interface for the Panasonic.  This is a great value add feature that in effect, eliminates the need for a separate controller.  You probably wouldn’t want to use that for production but for users who just need to adjust their camera every now and then this is a great money saver.

Our conclusion.  Either the Sony or Panasonic would serve anyone well and their quality is on par with one another.  We think it just comes down to use case.  The Panasonic AW-HE60, with its network control, simultaneous RS232, and small form factor seems more integration friendly though you cannot change video formats from HDMI or SDI as they are hard wired.  In low light situations this camera probably isn’t the right choice.  The Sony BRCZ-330 is a very nice camera and would be at home where precision “on air” movement and low light performance are necessary.  In short, I think the Panasonic is probably the better tool for interactive technology situations while the Sony is probably the better tool for true video production.

Let’s talk about the rest of the field.  The Cisco Precision HD is a popular camera at Duke with TelePresence systems common throughout campus.  It’s RS232 control is great as is wide angle performance and the availability of HDMI and HDSDI.  The Logitech held it’s own, it’s $200 and wasn’t voted as the worst camera in a field of $4-$5000 cameras.  The Vaddio was extremely disappointing.  The camera’s design is dated but it is still a current model in their line up.


PTZ Shootout – Part 1

Help us review a few cameras!  We recently tested five popular single-chip PTZ cameras for our MPS Studio upgrade.  We perceived what seem to be significant differences in quality.  To validate our findings, we would share what we saw with the digital media community for your feedback in hopes that the research might benefit everyone.

We will certainly post our opinions, however your feedback is equally important.  Each camera is a single-chip design with advertised pricing from $4-5000 with the exception of a web cam we also tested for comparison.  We captured similar imagery from each camera under identical conditions in real world circumstances using the same capture device, connections and recording methods.  The clips were ingested natively and not corrected at all.  We set the cameras to similar settings and since we wanted to judge the IQ of the systems, we put each unit on “Full Auto”.  The video is four minutes long, we spent a little under a minute with each one.  We also have a link to a download version of the video if you care to eliminate any potential Vimeo bias.

Downloadable version –

Take the survey at the end and tell us which one you think looks the best!  We’ll share the results of this shoot out in an upcoming post.

PTZ Shootout

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We currently have several, popular single chip PTZ cameras all in one location and hooked up to a test monitor.  On hand is the Sony BRC-Z330, Panasonic AW-HE60, Vaddio HD019, Cisco PrecisionHD, and Logitech BCC950.  With the exception of the Logtiech all three cameras have similar price points and options.   We did this round up to see how they perform against one another.  If you have a project coming up that needs a PTZ, it’s good opportunity to familiarize yourself with some common options.

Panasonic PTZ Camera Demo

awhe120kpjPanasonic is coming on site today from 2:30-4pm at MPS West in the Perkins / Bostock Library to demo their PTZ line up. We will be testing their cameras in several conferencing and production scenarios. Representatives will be available for questions. We will be exploring the AW-HE120, AW-HE60, and AW-HE2.

More information:


This is a walk-in style event, we invite you to stop in and check out the demo.

An Introduction to the Sony FDR-AX100

Continuing our exploration into 4K we have acquired a Sony FDR-AX100.  This a prosumer grade camera from Sony with the notable feature of being, of course, 4K (specifically UltraHD).  I will do an in depth review of it in the next week but my first impressions are favorable for a small unit at the sub-$2000 price point.  It does have some pro-level features such as ND filters, manual focus and iris controls, and so on.  Notably missing is the ability to connect balanced audio leaving one to rely on a breakout box like the Beachtek.

I shot a quick piece outside of the office and with YouTube’s new 4K renderings, I can actually show it to you.  It absolutely blows my mind that I can deliver 4K to an end user for with less than a $2k total investment.  Enjoy, more to come.

(to View in 4K, follow the video to YouTube, our WordPress site doesn’t appear to embed it correctly)


PrimeSense At The MPS

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 5.01.23 PMA new PrimeSense scanner has been purchased for use in the MPS starting this fall.  We couldn’t help ourselves when we explored some applications in the Media Lab.  To demonstrate the potential, we used a powerful application called Faceshift that captures our movements and expressions in real time.  Just a quick preview of things to come this fall at the MPS, keep checking back for previews of some of the other new gadgets we’ll be bringing to Duke.



Haivision Haischool Training & Demonstration

Chip and Todd attended HaiSchool 101, a one-day training session led by Haivision in RTP on June 11. The training was attended by about 25 or so area video professionals, including representatives from NC State as well as A/V integrators like Kontek and IVCI.


Haivision has a long history and solid track record as a developer and manufacturer of hardware encoders and has particularly big footprints in the medical and worship spaces where low latency and secure streaming is critical, as well as sports, enterprise, federal and higher education. Haivision has an extensive product line, and there is a lot of complexity involved in determining which product or combination of products can work for a particular application. So it is in the company’s interest to offer training such as today’s session, and for them to develop partnerships with local integrators.

In addition to providing a great primer of technical concepts such as compression and encapsulation, unicast vs. multicast, latency, jitter, LAN vs. WAN, and QOS, the session focused on the following Haivision products:


Makito Classic & Makito X

The Makito encoder line is the self-stated centerpiece and foundation of the Haivision product line and integrates into nearly every platform they offer.  This line was recently updated to the new Makito X encoder with SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) for distributing high quality video over “dirty,” public Internet.  This is essentially Haivision’s take on forward error correction (FEC) and competes head on with third party services like LTN and Zixi.  SRT looked interesting in that the player conveys information back to the server about what packets were lost so that corrections can be made. There is some latency (delay) cost for this, but the results demoed at the session were impressive in terms of quality.  Another important note for SRT, as with other FEC services, is that it is a point-to-point solution.  The receiving end is required to have a matching decoder to pick up the streams–it cannot be decoded with a third party decoder or software at this point.  Haivision reps did say software decoding was coming and the SRT / FEC concept will blend into the rest of their product line very soon.

The original Makito encoder remains with a large price reduction–$8995 MSRP to $2995 in the 720P/1080I model, $4995 in the 1080P model.  It has been retroactively rebranded as the Makito Classic.

Makito Classic Specs:

  • SDI or DVI 720p/ 1080i version for $3,000
  • 1080p Makito classic version previously was $8,995 — now $4,995, so the company is moving aggressively to compete better moving forward on price
  • Airborne and harsh environment versions for military and other applications

Makito X Specs:

  • Includes the Makito Classic Spec and builds upon them
  • Adds multibitrate streaming up to 25mbps total and the SRT functionality above.
  • Adds AES 256 Encryption
  • Adds support for High Profile encoding
  • Adds four cores of processing power and multiple streaming outputs



The Kraken is a true transcoder.  Where the Makitos occupy the encoder space, the purpose of the Kraken is to process video that has already been encoded.  This puts its location in a workflow closer to middleware, where it can re-purpose the video to meet automated or client requests.



If the Kraken and Makito had a baby, it would be the Kulabyte.  It’s basically a hybrid product functioning as a software encoder that offers density and flexibility for spaces and projects where hardware encoders just aren’t practical.  As with the hardware encoders, this system acts as the beginning of the workflow and feeds video data to downstream middleware and clients.  Like the Kraken, the KulaByte is also a transcoder and add the ability to reprocess video that has already been encoded.

Haivision Cloud

In addition to their encoders, Haivision offers a new way to manage the encoded streams they output.  The Haivision Video Cloud (HVC) is an online video platform to manage and publish video content to desktop and mobile devices. This is a new venture for the company and puts them in competition with Kaltura. They currently have Moodle and Blackboard integrations and use a licensing model based on bandwidth similar to Kaltura’s.



Calypso is a video recording and distribution platform.  Skills assessment and training is one potential application in higher ed, while news offices and other media-centric staff departments could make great use of this as a multipurpose recorder.  Some of the features of this platform include:

  • End to end AES encryption
  • Detailed reporting–who, what, where, when video assets are consumed
  • User authentication for viewing and access to channels
  • Talkback
  • Command and control–ensures, for example, that at 2:00 all your players are watching a  certain video channel



The Viper can best be explained as Calypso’s kid brother.  It’s an appliance form factor than can be placed in a small conference room or classroom.  As an appliance it offers many push button conveniences.

CoolSign & CoolStream

Other products discussed included HaiVision’s Digital Signage Platform called CoolSign and the InStream family of video players, with web and mobile versions. InStream is browser-independent and requires no installation. These players integrate with various Haivision command and control systems that govern precise access to content and configuration of the players. This is much more expensive system than Duke’s current digital signage system and wouldn’t have much value considering our current requirements.

Haivision @ Duke: Haivision could be

  • Haivision could be used for applications at Duke Medicine or other areas where secure or low latency delivery of video is needed. Given it’s encryption capabilities, it could be a key link in developing a HIPAA-compliant video delivery system for applications such as the OR.
  • Video overflow applications streaming from point to point with very low latency
  • Haivision’s new interest in the video content management space is interesting as we continue to evaluate the need for publishing media behind the Duke firewall into systems such as Sakai and WordPress.

General Use Cases for Haivision products:

  • Contribution level live broadcast and overflow applications.
  • You need to send media back and forth securely. The company mentioned HBO as a current client where footage shot on location for Game of Thrones is sent almost immediately back to the studio in LA for instant feedback. Security (encryption and extensive watermarking) are critical for this application.
  • IPTV – Haivision offers multiple possibilities for distributing IPTV video across a large geographic area. (NC State had been using Haivision this way but is moving away from this currently in part because of the cost of the set top boxes.)
  • Haivision is beginning to compete with players like Kaltura in offering cloud video transcoding and uploading through Haivision Video Cloud. They have Moodle and Blackboard integrations for this currently. They charge based on bandwidth and storage like Kaltura does, but said they could use on prem storage. They have AD/ LDAP integrations and are familiar with SAML 2.0 though no specific Shibb support as of yet.


Other Notes, Take-Aways and Opinions

We picked up on several very interesting small points and comments.  Notably missing from the conversation was Haivision’s Mako product which was previously billed as their flagship encoder and was often marketed to broadcasters.  When asked, they did state they still carry it but diverted attention back to the Makito.  Later in the presentation they mentioned they don’t target the three letter broadcasters or use their products in roles typically filled by more industrial products from Fujitsu or Harmonics.  That marks a departure from previous Haivision pitches and probably a good one as the focus has clearly come more to low cost encoding and delivery.  The major price reduction of the Makitos overcomes a a large objection to the Haivision line many project managers have expressed.  Previous cost positioning placed it at a Goldilocks point–their products were cheaper than those from Harmonics or Fujitsu but not technically competitive.  At the same time they are more money and better than lower cost encoders such as those from Visionary Solutions and the like.  The problem was that people that wanted the Cadillac class product had the money for a Cadillac ,while people who needed cheaper encoders couldn’t afford a Makito or Mako.  The update to the pricing in the lineup is well received and will likely generate interest at Duke.

Maker Faire North Carolina 2014

I spent a few hours at the NC Maker Faire this past Saturday.  My goal was to pick up on new things and popular trends in the maker field.  What surprised me was how simple and popular home manufacturing has become.  I saw 12 year olds building robots, home made 3D printers, robot hockey, homemade drones, and many other once complicated things reserved for engineers being built by every day people.

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For me personally, ShopBot stole the show.  For non-makers, ShopBot produces a series of CNC routers that can cut a variety of materials.  The concept is a close cousin to the laser cuter but offering some advantages and disadvantages.  This one here is milling a piece of wood but was used to create the guitar below.  It is the desktop version but ShopBot produces models up to 30 feet long!  As a home machinist myself, owner of an X3 CNC converted mill and halfway through a Shapeoko build, this particular technology appealed most to me for inclusion in a Duke MakerSpace project.

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