My review of Vortex Media's mastering the Sony PMW-EX3 DVDs at DVinfo.net

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Old October 16th, 2008, 09:19 PM   #1
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My review of Vortex Media's mastering the Sony PMW-EX3 DVDs

I take note that my most recent posts here have been of a more negative nature than I usually like to project. I am afraid that I am about to do the same but please understand that I being direct and do not sugar coat my opinions. Now on with the review.

Given the lack of definitive information on the most complex of the settings for the EX series, namely the Picture Profiles, I decided to buy this DVD set with the mention from other posts I have seen that the DVD helped with some of this missing information. I placed my order and received the DVDs within a week. The price seemed a bit steep but I do not know everything and anytime I can streamline my learning process the better.

The DVDs are packaged properly and look professional. Two DVDs cover about 3 hours worth of instruction.

The first DVD is almost totally a guided tour of the controls, layout and features of the EX3. This is not bad for a beginner or even perhaps an intermediate user who is stepping up from cameras with a lower TKABC (total knob and button count, yes it's my official technical term) but for me and perhaps most people who are willing to spend this much on a smallish camera it was almost a total waste of an hour and a half.

The second DVD steps it up a bit and gets into most of the finer details of using these controls and would definitely be a good place to start for many people. I found most of the second DVD to be less than elucidating with my skill level and experience. There were smatterings of things I hadn't considered relating to some of the work flow and settings. The big thing that is missing is what I originally thought I was going to be more enlightened on. Picture Profiles were glossed over as being too complicated to cover in the scope of the DVDs! Three hours of DVD production that basically covers what the manual tells you for free and less than you can find here and on Sony's website.

Now when I say that the Picture Profiles are glossed over I really mean that. They are acknowledged to exist, and one or two of the functions of a couple of items are shown, but the subject is dropped as too complicated to teach?

I also noticed a couple of factual errors in the information. The most glaring for me (and thus the reason I remember it) is that it is claimed that the Full Manual Focus function gives you direct control mechanically of the optical elements and no servo is involved. I sincerely believe they got that wrong completely yet it is stated so emphatically.

Overall the production values are good, the coverage of the manual in a visual and audio format almost matches the extent of content of the Sony manual, and there are some snippets of information.

Bottom line for me is that it is not worth the money for intermediate to advanced users and it completely misses out on explaining the most needed information that is required by EX users that is not supplied otherwise, namely the Picture Profiles settings. The title; "Mastering the Sony PMW-EX3: A complete guide to the Camcorder and the XDCAM EX Workflow" is not accurate as it is nowhere near complete and you will not be a master of the camera after viewing the instruction. It only succeeds at being a visual version of the Sony manual and in my humble opinion not as complete.
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Old October 16th, 2008, 09:47 PM   #2
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Les ...

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Originally Posted by Les Nagy View Post
Now when I say that the Picture Profiles are glossed over I really mean that. They are acknowledged to exist, and one or two of the functions of a couple of items are shown, but the subject is dropped as too complicated to teach?
I agree with you completely on this part of your post. Having made many, ... many educational DVDs myself, I realize that it's difficult to decide at what level to start instruction. Keep in mind, this came out with the camera, more or less, and basics appeal to more people than an expert guide, i.e. everything is included along with the kitchen sink.

I, too, bought this DVD and although I find the information scant on Picture Profiles, we do have people on this forum that have contributed greatly to that area of information. The EX3 DVD is still a good buy in my opinion.
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Old October 17th, 2008, 07:16 AM   #3
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Les

I just got the same package for the EX1 and I sort of know where you're coming from. Some of the before and after shots using certain features were really helpful but like yourself I was looking forward to seeing a lot more on picture profiles where the before and after shots would have been great. I couldn't help but think "is that it!!!??" I think the section on Audio could have been a bot more in depth also.

But that said I thought the presentation style was very good and I did learn new things. I never realised that after you pressed "Push Auto" the camera stayed in auto mode "until it decides to revert back to manual" - as stated on the DVD this is very diferent to the Z1. I need to experiment with that. Was also good to see similar footage of the various shooting formats and shutter speeds etc.

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Old October 17th, 2008, 09:23 AM   #4
 
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In the for-what-it's-worth deparment, I have to disagree with Les' assessment. I bought the DVD set for the EX3 and found it to be a great time saver--worth every penny.

Nowhere in the promotional materials did it say it was a video about Picture Profiles. As Doug pointed out in the video, one could write a book on the ins and outs of Picture Profiles alone. On top of that, the use of the PP is purely subjective. That is a whole other subject in and of itself.

Les, why don't you produce a DVD set explaining Picture Profiles?
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Old October 17th, 2008, 09:56 AM   #5
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Les, why don't you produce a DVD set explaining Picture Profiles?
Jay,

I believe that Les is still trying to improve his grasp of Picture Profiles, which then led to the purchase in the first place as it was billed as 'the complete guide' but did not quite live up to it's name. Surely you wouldn't expect him to produce an instruction DVD on them.
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Old October 17th, 2008, 10:37 AM   #6
 
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Surely you wouldn't expect him to produce an instruction DVD on them.
Ted, what better way to learn?
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Old October 17th, 2008, 05:08 PM   #7
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I too have a copy of the very informative EX3 DVD presented by a most competent Doug Jensen. Doug pointed out some operational settings that I have implemented on my camera, so from that perspective, the DVD set was a good investment.

I will, however, agree with Les' assessment of the picture profiles discussion.

As this is the DVD in its finished form, perhaps Doug or anyone else might consider a new DVD covering the more technical picture profiles discussion, and at times picture profiles is quite technical. To really setup the camera using picture profiles, the aid of test charts, scopes and a good monitor will go a long way to ensure that the camera has been correctly setup, albeit in a 'neutral' manner. Setting it up correctly will give you the very best pictures the camera is capable of producing, as we know that factory settings are not. After that, adjustments can be made for individual 'looks'.

I direct your attention to the many matrix and detail settings for instance. How does one set the camera's detail settings without the use of (resolution) test charts to ensure that they are obtaining the best out of the camera? I do not mean setting the camera's detail by eye either.

So perhaps Doug deliberately let out PP settings for that reason and that so many operators like to set PP by eye for a specific 'feel' & 'look' as so many operators post.

I am waiting for delivery (any day now) of my DSC Labs test charts so I can get into PP and setup the camera to give me the best 'neutral' look as a starting point, rather than the flat but temporarily acceptable factory profiles.

Enjoy your cameras
Best wishes to all
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Old October 17th, 2008, 07:36 PM   #8
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On a related note, is there a page somewhere on the net that shows the "flow" of the PP menu options? By that, I mean is there an illustration that shows the "root" of the folder and then all the branches of the menu tree? I've struggled with the PP's and I'm never sure if I'm screwing up the settings or not.

One little gotcha that I found out too late was after I copied the .SUF file from the PP thread and dumped it into my camera. When I fired up the EX1, I discovered that all my previous configurations (camera configs, not PP configs) had been overwritten as well. So, I had to go menu by menu and set all the low-level settings back to my prefs and then save that .SUF to my desktop. Still, I'd really like to understand how to do the PP's better and a DVD specifically for that task would be great (although not a HUGE seller, I'm guessing). ;-)
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Old October 17th, 2008, 09:43 PM   #9
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Guys, there's a reason why PP stuff was glossed over a bit. I did a DVD on the F350 and there is just too many settings and interaction within those settings to include. It truly would be a project unto itself. And in most cases, you would be using scopes and charts to arrive at the settings that were not only aesthetically pleasing, but within proper technical limits as well.

Best case is what I did, which was to try and explain what each of the settings basically refer to, then let the end user create their own.

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Old October 18th, 2008, 12:31 PM   #10
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Hi Greg,

Where did you explain what each of the settings refer to? I would be interested in reading/viewing this.

I too found the EX3 DVD informative and useful. However, because it is, you quickly get a better overall understanding of the camera and its only natural that you want to experiment with the PP's to create your own look.

I had a DVX100 and it was OK out of the box but you could quickly improve the look by tweaking the settings. I was hoping for the same thing with the EX3 and this DVD doesn't really cover this.

If there are other resources that people can point me to I'd certainly appreciate it.
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Old October 18th, 2008, 05:51 PM   #11
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I believe there is a market - it may not be a big one initially - for a detailed Picture Profiles DVD or book. The pp could very well cover a number of cameras, possibly from different manufacturers as the settings are essentially the same.

How different can the matrix, detail, knee or gamma settings be between cameras? Possibly the wording may differ but the adjustments should be similar. Besides, the changes can be instantly fed back via vectorscope, so one can see the changes they are making.

Some cameras will have a greater depth of adjustment but with some research, a well documented DVD could work. Some of the pp settings names are difficult to understand and I am not yet ready to start adjusting without my test charts. At the very least an easy to understand plain worded explanation of some of the very vague terms the EX3 has in its pp settings & operation manual would be of benefit.

3 prerequisites: good scopes, great test charts and a properly calibrated monitor would be needed as part of the pp alignment process.

Anyone care to add their thoughts?
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Old October 19th, 2008, 01:36 AM   #12
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Hi David, What would be a good recommendation for a low cost monitor and test charts? I can never understand why those charts have to be so expensive Surely accurate colour printing is not that hard? Whats the best way to get decent scopes?
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Old October 19th, 2008, 02:02 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian Briscoe View Post
I never realised that after you pressed "Push Auto" the camera stayed in auto mode "until it decides to revert back to manual" - as stated on the DVD this is very diferent to the Z1. I need to experiment with that.
BTW, this statement is only valid when the MF Assist function is ON (not recommended). Once it's turned off, the PAF acts exactly as with other Sony prosumer cams.
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Old October 19th, 2008, 02:34 AM   #14
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Hi David, What would be a good recommendation for a low cost monitor and test charts? I can never understand why those charts have to be so expensive Surely accurate colour printing is not that hard? Whats the best way to get decent scopes?
Hey Mark, LOVE your questions!!! Why indeed! I have been asking that for so long. Simple answer. Quality. Broadcast quality too boot! We are all so very excited that our cameras are at or very close to that level and although they may be cost effective, little else at that level is.

A low cost monitor is exactly that because it skimps on resolution, colour balance adjustment, gamma adjustment, white & black balance adjustment. Pretty much a low cost monitor does not have the electronics to offer precision alignment. The monitor in a video chain is akin to the speakers in a hi-fi audio system. A low cost monitor should only be used as a monitoring guide and never for colour & image resolution checks for instance.

Just like your good self, I too am not a printer, so I cannot comment on printing techniques but the broadcasters demand top quality charts and in my research, I found that DSC Labs make the best test charts and yes, I am spending money on them to ensure my fairly expensive camera kit produces the best images. I will report back (on a new thread) about the charts once I have used them.

There is a good range of scopes in FCP and a reasonable set in Media 100 editing systems. Again, I will report back on those.

Just because the camera quality has improved markedly over recent years, with lower prices, does not mean that all components of the industry follow suit. As a simple example, take a look at the VF Gadgets EX3 tripod mounting plate options. VERY expensive to the point that they will be very difficult to sell in my opinion.

I hope that this explanation goes a little way to help answer your questions. Best wishes.
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Old October 19th, 2008, 07:25 AM   #15
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Hi Dave

Well Im thinking along the lines of the Dell 2408WFP for a monitor and maybe adobe on location for scopes. I could buy a decent colour correction program for After Effects. I dont know about charts, I wonder if anyone has ideas? Perhaps its best to leave this sort of thing to experts like Bill!
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