Canon’s Latest Camcorders: Standing Out to be Outstanding

Canon-XA252

With even the cheapest compact cameras, digital SLRs and more recently wearable devices like the GoPro possessing high quality video recording potential, you may think the market for camcorders has somewhat deteriorated.

There is no longer much need to buy a specific video recording device, as even our smartphones and tablets have the ability to not only capture footage, but also edit the results. What used to be a job for the professional is now easily performed by almost anyone with the inclination.

Therefore, if you’re a camera manufacturer, it seems essential to either develop a device that possesses a multitude of capabilities, or produce a camcorder with unrivalled features and quality. One camcorder specialist in particular appears to be targeting both.

Expanding its range of handheld video cameras, Canon has unveiled three camcorders aimed specifically at a professional market. You can replace the word professional with rich if making movies is just a hobby or interest. From the high-end XA25 priced at £2099, to the £1699 XA20 and finally the most affordable LEGRIA HF G30 that costs £1299.

Canon-Legria-HF-G30

All three camcorders have been developed using a brand new picture taking system, which concerns the lens as well as the image sensor and processor. The 20x zoom wide-angle lens featured on all models offers a 26.8-576mm focal range and has borrowed technology from Canon’s premium XF305 camcorder.

As you can imagine, these cameras look to cover all the basics and overcome the common stumbling blocks such as low-light performance and noise reduction.
In addition, an improved Optical Image Stabiliser (IS) system enhances picture quality on the move while an 8-blade circular aperture ensures any background blur is ‘beautiful’ according to Canon. I didn’t even realise this was possible, but even high-quality blur is important apparently.

In some respects, the additional technology and newly developed systems are arbitrary; as for the price you would expect exceptionally high quality images. The respective camera’s ease of use and additional intuitive features are therefore what matters when it comes to differentiating itself from competitors like Panasonic.

Canon-XA20

The XA25 and XA20 feature a removable handle, which can be added or taken away to suit the shooting situation. A new OLED touchscreen gives greater resolution and colour, allowing the user to control exposure as well as aperture, shutter speed, iris, gain and exposure with a customisable control dial.

One interesting additional feature is that each camera features integrated dual band Wi-Fi support (2.4GHz and 5GHz). This handy addition means the user can look at recorded footage on a smartphone or tablet browser without the need for playback software. You can also transfer footage to FTP servers at up to 150Mbps via a wireless access point and play back videos on a supported TV or computer. Even though you’re likely to use the camera for high-quality video, the possibility of uploading to YouTube or Facebook at bitrates of up to 24Mbps exists.

Therefore these cameras appeal exclusively to filmmaking professionals or highly dedicated and passionate amateur video producers. There is no doubting Canon’s ability to develop a camcorder that produces the best possible images, but its additional features and functionality is where it hopes to gain the upper hand.

Rdio launches Vdio for TV and movies on demand

Vdio

Music streaming service Rdio has launched a new Vdio site for streaming TV shows and movies on demand. Unlike Rdio, Vdio adopt a pay-per-item approach rather than a monthly subscription model, with content available to buy or rent. The service is currently only available to existing Rdio Unlimited subscribers, or those who sign up in the next 60 days, who each receive £20 worth of credit to spend on Vdio. A more widespread roll-out is expected in the near future, though an exact date has yet to be specified.

It’s been a busy couple of years for on-demand video in the UK. Netflix jumped over the Atlantic at the start of 2012, while the Tesco-owned BlinkBox has been busy expanding its catalogue of content for those who prefer to pay as they go. Long-standing DVD rental firm Lovefilm, now run by Amazon, also offers a comprehensive collection of television shows and films to stream to your computer or mobile device, and on top of all this are the services offered by the traditional channels (Sky, the BBC, ITV) and the big players (Apple’s iTunes and Google Play).

As with Rdio, there are aspects to Vdio to help you manage your favourite films and programmes, and discover new material easily. “It’s not just that we’ve got amazing content,” wrote the Rdio team in a blog post, “but that the experience is now geared to get you from searching to watching faster. We’re introducing the notion of Sets — playlists for TV shows and movies — so anyone can make and share lists of their favourites, making it easier than ever to discover new stuff. Or, you can just check out what your friends are watching in the moment and jump in.”

Vdio is Web and iPad-only for the time being, though there is the promise of support for more platforms down the line. Log into the site at www.vdio.com and you’ll find some big headliners, including Argo, Skyfall, Breaking Bad, Doctor Who and The West Wing, though the catalogue currently lacks depth — only seasons 1 and 4 of Mad Men are available, for example. As with Rdio, the Web app is slick, well-designed and intuitive, and if Vdio can get the right content in place it could be a serious challenger in an increasingly crowded field.

Belkin’s Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre: Take your iPad to the movies

Despite having splashed out a few years ago on a big telly (the prices of which are now comically low) I watch a lot of content on my iPad. Especially after I discovered that Netflix has all 5 seasons of Friday Night Lights and that my deadlines were “flexible”. But great though the iPad is – and it is pretty great it’s not quite the same as a trip to the movies, or a fancy home cinema set up. Belkin know this and want to beef up the iPad viewing experience with the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre.

Belkin-Thunderstorm
Belkin-Thunderstorm

Belkin teamed up with mobile sound leader Audifi so the the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre features high-efficiency, front-facing speakers that project cinematic-quality sound. Not your grandfather’s iPad dock, the Thunderstorm features ported speakers and integrated air channels in the design allow optimal airflow so bass frequencies come alive. It’s the sort of thing the Inception soundtrack was composed for.

There’s also a downloadable Thunderstorm App for extended control with customisable soundscapes for music, movies and games. There’s Musical which is balanced for music and web video; Cinematic which has a broader soundscape with simulated accentuated middle channel to lend clarity and presence to dialogue; and Action which spreads the soundscape out to its fullest extent and sharpens sound effects so games explode off the screen.

Designed to fit flush around the iPad, the Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre connects directly through the iPad dock connector for a seamless, unified experience. This direct connection eliminates the possibility of dropping the connection to the speaker and provides optimal calibration for the audio sound effects. It also features a multi-fold cover for a variety of comfortable viewing angles and screen protection.

Belkin tapped us to engineer the sound performance of the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre from the inside out and we’re happy to see end results that deliver an immersive mobile audio experience. Through the design of core circuits, sound processing, custom speakers and a surprisingly thin acoustic enclosure, Audifi engineered a level of sonic depth and precision that was, until now, impossible to achieve in mobile devices.

Bruce Lancaster, general manager and vice president at Audifi.

The Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre will be available for both 30-pin connectors and the new Lightning connector.

Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre – £179.99/€229.99

Sky Now TV: A threat to Netflix and Lovefilm?

Sky has entered the internet TV arena with the launch of a new service called Now TV. With streaming services available on PC, Mac and selected Android handsets, the service puts Sky, and owners BSkyB, in direct competition with streaming giants Netflix and Lovefilm.

NowTV

Now TV subscribers will gain access to a range of Sky Movies content, including the service’s 11 channels and 600 movies. If movies alone aren’t enough to sway you, The Guardian reports that Now TV users will also be able to access other BSkyB content later in the year. This includes Sky Sports content, such as Premier League football, rugby, cricket and golfing tournaments, in addition to Sky1 and Sky Atlantic.

Stephen van Rooyen, BSkyB managing director of sales and marketing, said: “We are targeting the 13m non-pay TV households out there with a no commitment, no contract way of delivering Sky content they want in a dip in and dip out way. The whole idea is to have something ‘not Sky’, it is purposely designed to attract new customers.”

NowTV is available as a subscription or pay-as-you-view service. Subscribers can watch unlimited content for £15 a month, while less prolific viewers can expect to pay between 99p and £3.49 per film using the “pay and play” option.

With the new service, BSkyB are targeting consumers who avoid subscribing to costly cable packages, and offering them a more flexible option. Despite this, Now TV’s monthly fee is still three times higher than Netflix and LoveFilm’s cheapest packages.

Van Rooyen defended the company’s pricing, saying “The most important thing to look at is what the service is, the quality of what we are delivering, we don’t want to replicate what LoveFilm and Netflix have done. We offer around 75% of the top 100 box office movies, and have rights to offer films a year before rivals – the value is in the premium quality we have.”

Although the service is only currently available on a limited number of gadgets, BSkyB have announced plans to roll out further versions for iPhone, iPad, Xbox and even PlayStation 3. It will also be available via YouView, a new service that combines Freeview with online content.

SkyGo Brings Movies to Tablets/Smartphones

Just in time for the Christmas viewing season, Sky has announced that it is bringing Sky Movies Live and on demand on Sky Go.

This means that Sky TV customers can have access to hundreds of films via their tablets and smartphones, as well as at home on their TVs.

Sky-Movies-iPad

Sky Movies subscribers can use Sky Go to stream movies on demand over a Wi-Fi connection (there should be 3G capability by the end of the year). They will be able to see content from all 11 Sky Movies channels – films they can look forward to over the next few weeks include Black Swan, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Little Fockers and Limitless.

This is the latest expansion to the Sky Go service, which lets customers view Sky content using their iPads, iPod Touch, iPhone, PC, Mac and laptops. SkyGo was launched in July this year and has nearly two million users to date. It also offers access to channels such as Sky News and Sky Sports.

Earlier this month, Sky also launched a dedicated Sky Movies App for iPhone and iPad, offering listings for movies currently showing on Sky Movies and at the cinema, movie trailers and the option to record movies via Sky+ remote record.

A Sky Go app for Android handsets should be available in the next few months.

Sky’s attempts at world domination look set to progress next year when the Sky Go experience will be supported by the ability for Sky customers to use at least 5,700 public Wi-Fi hotspots, ins coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, transport hubs, hotels and gyms. This follows Sky’s acquisition of the Cloud, a public Wi-Fi network.

The Sky Go app is available for free to Sky customers from the App Store on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore

Script It!: Budget screenwriting software

Do you have unfulfilled dreams of creating the next Twilight or True Blood? If so leave this review now, throw away all your pens and pencils and let us never speak of this again. If however, you are hoping to write something sensible for the stage, screen (big or small) then read on.

Script-It!

“Script It!” is a new software packaged aimed at the first time writer learning the craft of screenwriting, without the cash to splash out on big ticket items such as Final Draft (which if you don’t know is like the Photoshop of screenwriting software). It helps you plan and organize your story, and uses the simple technique of step-outlining to build your story scene by scene. The intuitive design helps you to build and navigate your outline, script and notes step by step through an AV remote-style console.

Script It! has a powerful Scratch Pad which allows you to easily organize your notes and categorize them into folders. The handy ‘Send to Scratch Pad’ menu option you can create an instant copy of selected text in your Scratch Pad for future reference or use. The ‘Tab and Enter’ keyboards shortcuts and auto completes allow you to focus on your story and characters.

As countless LA producers will tell you, formatting is crucial. If you script isn’t laid out in the classic style (Courier font and all) it will be binned. Frustrating though this is, Script It! features industry standard script formatting with auto-pagination and auto-complete and a script writing glossary with over 250 filmmaking terms and definitions. In keeping with the theme of helping you out on your journey to becoming a screenwriter, Script It! includes scene by scene story and analysis of Ghost, Spider-man and Scream so you can take apart some classics … or create a bizarre hybrid of all three. There’s even a Character Name Wizard with over 140,000 first and last names that can be categorized by origin, gender and meaning.

Priced around £49.95, Script It! is available to download immediately from DownloadBuyer.com and in boxed formats from Amazon.co.uk.

Movies go mobile: Aiptek D10 DVD projector

This nifty new gadget is definitely sure to be a hit with the kids and due to its recent release only this month, I anticipate it may be a firm favourite on the 2010 Christmas lists. The gadget in question is the Aiptek MobileCinema D10 DVD Projector which is basically a portable, fun and easy way to play films anywhere.

Watching films is probably the most popular form of entertainment and is a great way to get friends and family together in one place to share the experience. Whilst some people prefer to enjoy their film viewing on a state of the art plasma television in HD, many are happy with a basic visual and sound quality for the sake of quick and easy entertainment and that is exactly what you get with this new gizmo. It isn’t high tech and the quality certainly isn’t comparable to that of the somewhat higher end multimedia systems available but it is a creative way of watching films, aesthetically a fun looking device and very simple to use.

What also makes the Aiptek MobileCinema D10 unique is that whilst many portable video players can only provide you with limited amount of display, this can deliver up to 50 –inch of projected display output on a surface and also has a built-in DVD player and stereo speakers for audio which means that if you want to transfer it from place to place, the whole thing comes in one portable package for easy mobility. To watch a film, all you do is slot in a DVD on the unit and you’re ready to go – the device is easy to operate with uncomplicated functions and features and a control panel which includes the basic controls such as play/pause, stop, rewind, subtitles, fast forward and audio language. This means that kids can easily enjoy the experience without the need of assistance from adults to get it working! There is also a microphone jack for karaoke if you have the desire to blast out a few vocals and again, this is great if you want to take it along to parties with minimal hassle. The projector also features LED technology which is designed to conserve power and makes the unit last a great deal longer with a lifetime over 10,000 hours once fully charged up.

The Aiptek MobileCinema D10 is definitely a good option if you are looking for a quick, mobile and simple-to-use means of film watching that predominantly the kids will use and enjoy. The quality and durability of the device is not amazingly high but it is certainly good value entertainment that basically does what it says on the tin!

The Aiptek Mobile Cinema DVD is currently available to buy in the UK for £159.99 from Amazon.