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Old September 6th, 2010, 03:32 PM   #16
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shake it up baby

Man. something like 200 aftershocks so far, many in the high 5s. The aftershocks are actually doing more damage than the initial quake, especially on brick buildings. Some buildings that weathered the main quake are being ripped apart by the aftershocks. Ugh. My 3 year old son keeps saying "can daddy make the earthquakes go away and not come back?... PLEASE" after every big one. It helps to imagine our house is a boat. Doing that makes the motion of our home make more sense.


I shot a TV commercial yesterday during a 5.6 aftershock. It was a two-man-army deal, where Campbell, the producer/director called me in to bring all the gear. After lighting, I shot on my 7d and Cam ran audio with my dr-680 and schoeps 641.

Campbell was obsessed with the dp6. He kept carrying it around even when it wasn't on or connected. At one point when playing back a clip I asked if he was happy with the shot and he admitted that he had zoned out and wasn't paying attention to the shot, but instead was just looking at how crisp the image was on the dp6. hehe. I asked him for a quote for this review and he said "are you kidding? I love this thing". Its not the most helpful quote, but there it is.

We got the typical "you are shooting on THAT?" dslr reaction, but somehow rigging up the dp6 changed people's mind. The most vocal guy (there is always a really vocal guy who is incredulous that he's never heard of a dslr shooting video) went from "what is all this?" to telling his wife quietly "they have some really nice gear" after seeing playback on the dp6. I hadn't really thought the monitor would change the "professional appearance" the same way a matte box does, but in this case, it did.

*focus assist*
I have to admit that what I pictured when I read about the dp6's "focus assist" was that it would be peaking on top of a normal image. The dp6 does that (its called peaking. heh). But focus assist is something different. Its kinda hard to describe... its like peaking in that it accentuates the parts of the image with a sharp change in color/luminance (thats what our eyes/brain use to identify when something is in focus) but it also darkens the rest of the screen. What you end up with is a dark "ghost" of the image with white lines where things are in focus. It works, and if you flick it on you can easily rack focus with certainty.

The problem is... I don't really care for it. I suppose it could be an issue of not being used to it, but it obscures enough of the image that I can't imagine leaving it on while normally shooting. It would make sense for specific racks vs. marking the lens, but I'll be curious if I ever reach for it. With the shortcut button you can turn it on/off with a click, so its possible to even using mid-shot for focus check. I'll be curious if anyone out there loves it. I love having more options, so its cool its there, even if I never reach for it.

One artifact of peaking/assist/etc. being in-monitor vs in-camera is that the camera overlays have peaking/focus assist applied to them. So the record "light" and any status displays will have contrasted edges if you have one of the assists applied. Again, its not a big deal, but a little bit disconcerting if you aren't expecting it.

Thinking about what I haven't discussed yet, i realized i haven't plugged anything into the composite or component ports. I've just been using the hdmi to date. I'll connect something to the other inputs and see how they fare.

Holler with any questions.

Cheers!
-a

Last edited by Andrew Dean; September 6th, 2010 at 08:21 PM. Reason: misspelled a bunch of stuff
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Old September 6th, 2010, 07:56 PM   #17
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Thanks for posting so much information when everything must be in a state of turmoil. I am definitely going to try and track down a DP6 at IBC this weekend.

I have toured a little in your area on trips to NZ in the past and it's pretty hard imagine what it must be like now. I tend to think of N Island as the more active geologically with it's volcanos and geysers but then I thought back to the very large range of mountains we struggled over in a wheezing camper van and realised I had forgotten more of my O level geology than I thought. My thoughts are with you and all my kiwi mates.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 09:20 PM   #18
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So the smallHD's are earthquake proof as well hey? Awesome! ;-)

Was wondering when you get a chance if you can post a pic of how much screen realestate you get / loose in record mode using the 7D? I've got a 550D and a Marshall and one thing that annoyed me was how much of the screen area I loose when it goes into record mode.

I've been thinking of going the 7D / small HD road, especially if it means I get 100% coverage of the LCD screen.

Cheers

P
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Old September 7th, 2010, 12:11 AM   #19
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real estate

Thanks for the well wishing. I've just been around to neighbors delivering some water.

Hey Paul,

The 7d is a different beast, as it stays in 1080 while in record mode. (awesome for focus).

I also have a 550d, so I can hook it up to see how it fares in the lower rez mode. (I had assumed it was the same as the 5d, but hadn't tested it)...

The answer to real estate is that the dp6 has a powerful custom overscan function. This means you can adjust the size and aspect ratio to anything you like. The horizontal and vertical position and scale are independently adjustable, which lets you do all sorts of clever things.

The 7D output stays in 1080, but part of the screen is comprised of the grey "out of bounds" areas from the camera. To compensate, I made one of the custom presets be a "shooting mode" where only the useful information from the camera fills the full screen. You wouldn't "gain" resolution, but you could totally scale it so that the letterboxed portion of your camera's output fills the screen edge to edge and uses every single pixel. The scaler in the dp6 is quite nice, and i don't notice any quality difference in changing the aspect ratio or scale. The dp6 has different presets for various aspect ratios, but the real power is just adjusting the image to exactly how you want it.

If you take advantage of the custom presets, then you could, for example, have preset 1 be "full frame" and custom 2 be set up to show the whole 4:3 frame/menu and quickly flick between them with a roll and poke of the scroll wheel.

There is an "auto scale" function, but i'm not sure its working fully yet, and even still, what you ultimately want is to blow up to full frame a subset of the image the 550d outputs. Thats totally doable with the overscan function.

Hope that answers your question.

Cheers!
-a

Regarding earthquake proofness, officially my dp1 and dp6 have survived some 250 earthquakes now. During the big one, my dp1 fell (in a bag) from a shelf to the floor with no damage whatsoever. As long as you protect the screen, the aluminum frame is pretty darn rugged.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 09:17 AM   #20
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Thanks for posting this review. I want a DP6!
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Old September 11th, 2010, 05:03 PM   #21
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Yea I echo that sentiment...Thanks so much for posting all this info.

SmallHD made a good decision letting you review this pre-production unit, because I was all set to get a Marshall. This thread alone has very likely changed my mind...and you never know, maybe others too.

Regards,

G.
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Old September 11th, 2010, 11:24 PM   #22
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Have you tried the component ports?
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Old September 12th, 2010, 07:46 AM   #23
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Hey Guys,

Sorry I've been kinda slack in posting here. Christchurch is a bit of a mess. My big projects have been put on hold indefinitely so i've been taking a bunch of commando gigs where i'm basically the entire crew. It kinda wipes me out and on sets like that I'm way too busy to be able to think much about the gear. "Film sets" are fantastic places to reflect on stuff, since there is tons of down time, which is how this thread started.

I updated to the latest firmware and several of the changes were exactly what I hoped for (and at least one was directly per my suggestion, which was cool.) A lot of companies do firmware updates so they can fix bugs... smallhd is clearly using it to evolve their monitor, which is rather refreshing. If any owner has an idea for an improvement, they'll consider it. It may not be a good idea, but I can vouch for the fact that they are listening.

The new firmware colors are much more accurate. I still haven't done a proper test, but so far nobody has said anything negative about the colors, which is great.

A third person in christchurch ordered their own dp6 today after touching mine. On the one hand I think thats cool, since I want to see smallHD succeed and keep creating products I lust after... on the other hand, I'm going to miss the elite-ness of being the only kid on the block with a dp6. hehe.

Sorry, Alex. I haven't plugged in component inputs yet. I'll try to get to that today.

I was on a shoot today with two young filmmakers. Both have 7Ds and were both seriously looking at the dp6 for their "rigs" (i hate "rigs" btw). It was interesting to see them both try out the focus assist mode on the dp6. (Its where the screen goes dark and the in focus stuff is shown as a white line around pixels in focus). The first guy was like me and had trouble getting used to it and preferred to just see the peaking on a normal image. The second guy loved it. He was whipping around the room and nailing focus on different objects. I tried repeating what he did and my brain must be wired differently because I couldn't do it. It was like he had a feel for how far to pull focus and the screen was just visual confirmation. I wish that instinct was an accessory I could order. hehe. Anyways, it was cool seeing the focus assist feature in the hands of someone that really jived with it.

I gotta crash. I have a late call time tomorrow so i'm hoping to have a critical stab at the dp6 with component. Holler if you have any questions. Gnight!
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Old September 12th, 2010, 08:36 AM   #24
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shoot

couple of action shots with Adam Clark:

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/attachme...1&d=1284298525

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/attachme...1&d=1284298525

Cheers!
-a
Attached Thumbnails
SmallHD Dp6 (aka DP-SLR) pre Review-img_0020_2.jpg   SmallHD Dp6 (aka DP-SLR) pre Review-img_0029.jpg  

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Old September 15th, 2010, 02:43 PM   #25
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eureka!

Alex,

Sorry for being so slow with the component test. I wanted to compare the hdmi with component, but my only camera with both is my hv20 and I haven't been able to find it. I've been digging around everywhere with no luck. My wife went on a spring cleaning today (yes, its going into spring here) and found the camera wedged between the dresser and the wall. The dresser normally isnt "one hv20" away from the wall, so it must have marched there during the quake and the bag went down the back.

All a very complicated excuse for not doing something, I know... I've got to run to a VO session, but hope to poke cables into the hv20 this afternoon.

Cheers!
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Old September 15th, 2010, 08:53 PM   #26
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Glad you found your camera! Lol!
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Old September 16th, 2010, 04:00 PM   #27
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hdmi vs component

Heya Alex,

After finding the component cable for the hv20 i looked back and forth a few dozen times between the component and hdmi footage. Since the hv20 won't output both at the same time, i'd have to unplug the hdmi cable, then change the menu in the dp6... so my comparison wasn't totally direct, given how there was a delay of 2-3 seconds between looking at the different images.

Honestly, I couldn't see any noticeable difference between the two inputs. The color, contrast and clarity looked identical to me. As I went back and forth, I'd keep forgetting which input I was on and have to look at the hv20 to see if the hdmi cable was plugged in or not. (plugging it in bypasses the component out). Its possible the component input is a tiny bit more saturated...

I took photos of the screen in each mode, but i was just hand holding the camera as I shot the screen, and my photo of the hdmi input is a bit out of focus, so the component input looks much much sharper in my photos. (in other words, my photos were useless in comparing the two modes).

I'm quite pleased with the component mode. I thought the analog vs. digital would be markedly different, but they really aren't. I wouldn't hesitate to use the component input for focus. I tried out the focus assist and it seemed to work just as well on component as hdmi.

Not very scientific, but thats my reaction. If there is a specific test you'd like me to perform, holler.

cheer!
-a
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Old September 16th, 2010, 06:03 PM   #28
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Firmware 1.1

I'm still testing it to see what all is in there, but it appears there is a lot to love about the newest firmware.

The big one is that there is now a "dslr record" custom profile that senses when cameras like the 5d or 550d/T2i jump between standby 1080 and the 480 mode. The new profile automatically scales each up to fill the full horizontal width of the monitor, so while you are shooting you don't have to touch the monitor at all as you go between standby and record modes.

Of course, on a 7d the output remains 1080, which is infinitely better for focus.

The colors in 1.1 have been tweaked. They look great in most settings, but there have been a few select scenarios where some (not all) of the colors weren't quite right. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a reference or grading monitor. Its easy to get confused with the $5k (low rez) reference monitors thanks to the killer build quality. However, the dp6 is definitely designed and built from the ground up to compensate for the shortcomings of on-camera monitors. The one thing that is usually 100% on built in monitors is color, and everything else (resolution, size, overscan, placement) is painfully lacking. The dp6 nails resolution, size, overscan (even if you do wacky stuff like shoot with anamorphic lenses), and you can mount the thing damn near anywhere. If you are doing critical color work, you can always double check with the camera lcd... but I'm convinced that the dp6 provides you the right options to use it as a powerful tool and set it up in such a way that you can reliably trust it as your primary monitor in the field. YMMV, but thats my opinion.

Cheers,
-a
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Old September 16th, 2010, 06:46 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Dean View Post
Heya Alex,

After finding the component cable for the hv20 i looked back and forth a few dozen times between the component and hdmi footage. Since the hv20 won't output both at the same time, i'd have to unplug the hdmi cable, then change the menu in the dp6... so my comparison wasn't totally direct, given how there was a delay of 2-3 seconds between looking at the different images.

Honestly, I couldn't see any noticeable difference between the two inputs. The color, contrast and clarity looked identical to me. As I went back and forth, I'd keep forgetting which input I was on and have to look at the hv20 to see if the hdmi cable was plugged in or not. (plugging it in bypasses the component out). Its possible the component input is a tiny bit more saturated...

I took photos of the screen in each mode, but i was just hand holding the camera as I shot the screen, and my photo of the hdmi input is a bit out of focus, so the component input looks much much sharper in my photos. (in other words, my photos were useless in comparing the two modes).

I'm quite pleased with the component mode. I thought the analog vs. digital would be markedly different, but they really aren't. I wouldn't hesitate to use the component input for focus. I tried out the focus assist and it seemed to work just as well on component as hdmi.

Not very scientific, but thats my reaction. If there is a specific test you'd like me to perform, holler.

cheer!
-a
Lol! Thanks for testing out the components. i was curious about the focus assist
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Old September 22nd, 2010, 08:14 AM   #30
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More random thoughts:

I've had a chance to spend some time with the latest firmware (1.1) and to work the dp6 in a number of different real world environments with various DPs and shooters, and myself behind the camera in a few occasions.

The biggest and probably most controversial thing i want to say is...

Canon got lucky.

That has to be it. I realize I've left the realm of fact and am speculating wildly, but the hit and miss with the canon dslr for video is SO extreme that it feels like a total and complete accident that any of the canon cameras can produce what they do. Their R&D department must include 100,000 monkeys with typewriters and for every amazing revelation like a good data rate, or switchable pal/ntsc fps, monkey poo gets flung at things like AGC audio and dropping to 480p on the output while recording.

I've read all the big stories and theories and conspiracies about video on dslr and all that resonates from owning and using these cameras is that it seems to me that within canon there are engineers that care passionately about making their cameras rock... and there are management types that are doing everything they can to make it suck... and unlike most battles that end up with a homogeneous compromise of overall lameness, the 5d, 7d and 550d(t2i) are random collections of awesome and suck mixed together. The "big players" were quick to dismiss them because of the suck, where a lot of us focus on the awesome. You *can* get results from dslr that are amazing, and many of us have embraced it and flexed to the requirements to work around the things that suck, but that doesn't discount the fact that the features that suck? They suck.

There is a whole cottage industry of people making devices to make dslrs (and other video camers) suck less. SmallHD is a boutique startup within a cottage industry. (or... a cottage startup in a boutique industry?) At times its hard to remember that because they put so much "finish" into their product and image. Two years ago SmallHD was some video geeks trying to shoot videos and like many of us asked "why isnt there a decent field monitor at a decent price?". Then, they went out and tried doing it themselves. Unhappy with their first attempt, they scrapped it, put some money behind it and set out to "do it right".

I have no vested interest in smallhd. I'm not an employee or shareholder, i'm just a customer. In the end it doesn't matter to me whether they succeed or fail (well... except for support on the monitors I own). But I do love a good "rise to success" story and I do love their monitors. We've all been asking for large sensors and swappable inexpensive lenses since the 1970s. Canon gets my love for accidently giving me a lot of that (while swearing that it is NOT what the market wants... whatever). As soon as HD hit, I've been asking for a field monitor to let me see HD. The big names and even the big "indy" players all passed out 800x480 (and even LOWER rez!) monitors and said "here ya go!" with very little differentiation between them aside from logo and price. SmallHD's DP1 (albeit after a LONG wait) shook things up hard. A true HD monitor with an industrial design that showed somebody had spent ages putting thought into the thing. The dp6 easily tops the dp1, and is a pretty amazing "second product".

I had an irritating experience with one of the other monitor makers in one of my earlier grip jobs. The monitor was only 2 weeks old and had only been run off the a/c adapter because the owner (my friend) didn't have any sony batteries to match the mount. I had some, so after he rigged his monitor to his steadicam, i made sure the monitor was off and popped on my battery. Immediately, smoke poured out the monitor, so i ripped the battery off and it was uncomfortably hot. When it cooled down i stuck it onto my camera (in retrospect a dumb idea) and the battery worked fine. The monitor, however, never turned on again.

Now... yeah, whatever, we all have those stories, and while annoying, thats kinda the price we pay for being "boutique" consumers. Where things got infuriating is that the company (after having him pay shipping, which is a huge sum of money from nz to the states) the monitor returned unfixed with a note that it "tested ok". It still wouldn't turn on - battery or wall current. He complained and got a new RMA number and had to pay to ship the monitor a second time. This time it came back with a note stating it was "damaged. Not a warranty issue." He complained again and ultimately got a reluctant RMA number with the disclaimer (paraphrased) "the state of the monitor has already been determined. If you really wish to do so, you can ship it again at your cost and we will verify our findings."

So that was it. My friend had already paid around 1/3 the cost of the monitor shipping it to not get fixed. (or even to have a paid repair offered to him before being shipped back). When I talked to my friend a year after the smoking monitor event, i expected him to have a working monitor. Instead, he had a broken monitor, some corporate emails and several hundred dollars in shipping. I don't mention the company name because its been over 3 years, everything has changed and it seems unfair to hold a public grudge. If it had happened to me personally you can bet i'd be spewing their name around, but carrying somebody else's torch just seems petty. I wouldn't ever buy their brand again, but thats different.

Kiwis get bent over on electronics. At one point when i was looking at a new macbook it was going to be cheaper to fly to los angeles, buy a macbook and hang out with friends for a week than it was to buy it over the counter here. We often are last to get new models of electronics and despite the nz$ being worth around 72 us cents (been as high as 89, as low as 64), its not uncommon for things to be 2-3 times more expensive here after currency conversion.

It makes me very sensitive about buying gear. I don't want to pay 3x more for gear just to have a local person to yell at. However, i am extremely gunshy about getting caught in a corporate support spiral. I either want to buy from the biggest stores/biggest names...

or the smallest.

I know that sounds odd, but just like any other boutique, if you go small enough, then customer service is placed in a very high position. I first discovered this with cool lights. I mean, its just "off the shelf components slapped together!" and yet how the components are chosen, how they are put together and how they are sold makes all the difference in the world. You couldn't pry my cool lights led600s out of my dead hands and its just a wall of leds, right?. Richard clearly thought hard about what was good/bad about other lights, and set out to make his own that was better and still affordable. That alone is worth something. If his lights have a problem, he makes good. Period. His reputation is his entire marketing strategy and he can't afford to have bad stories. And when it comes down to it, he busts his ass. I had a problem where a bulb reseller shipped me the wrong brand bulb for my hmi 575 (cool lights didn't sell a 575 bulb at the time). Richard had recommended a few places to buy bulbs and the place that shipped me the wrong one was one of those. I had a big shoot and a 575 that flickered due to the wrong bulb. Although it wasn't his error, Richard drove around hong kong, located the correct bulb, bought it and shipped it to me. I paid actual shipping cost and his wholesale price for the bulb. Had i lived in the states, 5 minutes from a bulb shop I doubt he would have done that, but knowing I was out of good options, he bent over for me. A bigger or smaller sized company likely would/could not have done that.

SmallHD fits into a very similar model as cool lights in my mind. They live off of their support. That means they would NEVER return to me a dead monitor once, say nothing of twice. They couldn't afford to. And yet, their product is not second rate. In fact, its got way more engineering and thought put into it than anything else in the price range (even a higher price range). As cool lights has grown Richard doesn't have to bend over as far... although he still certainly bends. As SmallHD grows I expect they'll get to a point where support emails don't immediately direct to the owner of the company... but maybe not. For now you have geeks putting their heart, soul, personal savings and basically every minute of the week into making a monitor that rocks. The evolution from dp1 to dp6 shows to me just how hard they are working. The dp6 has a few things that aren't quite there. but its damned close... and with the firmware updates, it has been getting better and better.

Its not often that gear inspires this many words out of me. (i'm verbose, but this is getting absurd. hehe) I figure if i painted my whole stream of consciousness about the dp6, then it would be almost like going on a shoot with it and me... and having me yacking incessantly the whole time. heh.

I do appreciate the encouragement people have given me to keep on waxing poetic. In another forum i'd have been called "ghey" and told to shut up by now. :,P

I've probably said more than enough, but I would like to finish up with this: If you are teetering on a decision of which "hd" monitor to buy, I think you should try to see a dp6 in person, especially side by side with the other monitor you are considering if possible. Ultimately who cares what I think, or even what the people I work with think? All that matters is if it works for you. I do happen to believe you'll dig the heck out of the dp6 though. Its hard to put down.

If you can't see a dp6 in person and have questions/tests you'd like me to perform, holler. I'm happy to help out so long as I don't have to drive around hong kong. ha!

Cheers!
-a

Last edited by Andrew Dean; September 22nd, 2010 at 08:44 AM.
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