Kodak Zi8? Anyone?

I got a comment on a recent post about the Zi8, Kodak’s phantom “flip killer” pocket camcorder. 1080p, external mic input, Shake reduction, focus tracking, etc…

They have been MIA for weeks now since the September release. The commenter said he was able to find one at a Target. I check the Best Buy online store, and there they were, listed… but backordered. Still, it’s progress. Previously they were not even listed. Target.com doesn’t show them, but you can buy a nice pink Zi6 for $130.

I suspect that by Christmas shopping season they will be readily available. Why Kodak didn’t wait until they were ready to launch I don’t know.

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Big Productions and Prep Time

People who don’t work in production don’t know how long it takes to prep for the production.

Every year (not counting a short 2 year break) we present the Sing Christmas Trees. These two massive structures hole 400 choir members while tens of thousands of lights flash in sync to the music. The over all cast includes hundreds. Everyone knows that the first two weeks of December are Trees weeks, and we do multiple presentations, seeing thousands upon thousands (27,000+ last year) come through.

What they don’t know is that Trees weeks really run from the last week in October through the third week of December. It literally takes 5 weeks to build and rig the Trees. Even people who know that the first week of November we load in the primary structure don’t always realize that we have to complete all of the rigging above the Trees before we can build them. That means we have to shut down the worship center a week early.

If we don’t, we get behind. If we get behind on the construction we get behind on rehearsals, and the presentations suffer. If they suffer, and are not as effective, we jeopardize our whole reason for doing the Trees at all.

So, we try to block out the worship center for five weeks. And I get to have those hard conversations about the limitations we must accept to what events we can do for a month. We can do some limited things, but basically we do church and we do Trees construction, and nothing else.

This year we suddenly found a major event just days before load in, right in the middle of the primary rigging week. The event was set, and there was no going back. We had to find a way to get the work done and not be late. This meant that we had to push the rigging work ahead one week. That means an extra week of over time and an extra week of gear rental.

And a much more tired crew.

Three weeks from now we will be into the main part of Trees construction and prep, and things will ease off a bit. We will get through it. The crew will put in a lot of hours, and be tired. But when it’s all over the presentations will be amazing and hundreds of people will come to Christ.

Worth it.

Install Complete

It’s been a busy weekend/week, but I wanted to finish the series of blogs about the new switcher install. We went through some intense training on Saturday, and had a very successful first weekend with the new Kahuna video switcher. It worked perfectly. The macros we programmed were very easy for our volunteers to use, and everyone seemed very pleased.

Since then we have had a couple of issues with other equipment, not related to the new gear. But when you work with old gear, it has quirks. Had to change a couple of settings here and there, but so far, everything is going well. We will schedule a couple more days of training in the next few months.

The New Control Panels

The new control panels for the Snell & Wilcox Kahuna are in.

The 1ME panel for the front position where we switch for broadcast is a bit smaller than the old Grass Valley 200 panel.
1mepanel wrong size

So TI had an inset made to hold it.
front1mepanel

And it turned out very nice.

The 2ME panel for IMAG position is also in and ready.
2me on and in

And we have an aux panel going in.
auxpanel

The rep from Snell is in commissioning the switcher, updated software and making sure it’s all set up. Tomorrow we train. Tomorrow night we have a service.

End of an Era

In the process of installing the new Snell & Wilcox we finally shut down the Grass Valley 200. After 20 years of service, we finally powered it down for the last time.

First we shut down the control panel, then removed the external fan. Then I realized I didn’t know where the actual power switch was because we never turn this thing off.

It’s the end of an era. It has served us well.

…In with the New.

Here are few images of the new gear. The basic install should be done by the end of today. The switcher should be up and running. We won’t be finished setting it up, and the guy from Snell will need to come in tomorrow and “commission” it, but progress is being made. I’ll post some images of the control surfaces after they are in place.

Here’s the heart of the switcher:
mainframegoodness

The back(I’ll try to get a better picture later):
switcherback-focusissue

New patch bay:
patchbay

Back of patch bay (it’s almost a work of art):
backpatchbay

I know, it’s totally geeky, but I am a media guy. This is part of what I do for a living, so it’s fun for me.

Out With the Old…

So we are in the middle of upgrading or video switchers in the broadcast control room. We currently have a 20 year old Grass Valley 200 for the broadcast cut and a Snell & Wilcox “Dave” 4:3 SDI switcher we use for IMAG.

Here’s the GV 200 control panel:
grassvalleypanel

And the front of the mainframe. Note the fancy cooling system. That is one of the many things going wrong with this piece of gear. 20 years of service is amazing for a piece of electronics:
grassvalleyfront

Here is the smaller Snell control panel for our IMAG switcher:
snellcontrolbest

And the mainframe for that switcher:
snelldave

The process is going well. We had the new rack for the new gear in place before the install. Note the contrast between a 20 year bandaid and the new rack. (The guys that work with me hate it when people see this, since it reflects on us. The key here is that this is years of analog timing loops, not simply people being lazy with wire ties. It was like this long before any of the guys on staff now were around.) This is the first step in an overall, long term HD upgrade that will fix a lot of our issues:
back of rack

These pieces are being replaced with one 3ME HD switcher. The Snell & Wilcox Kahuna with 4 full keyers per ME, on board SD/HD conversion, 64 inputs and 24 outputs. The broadcast position will have a 1ME control surface, and the IMAG position will have a 2ME surface. Going from 2 separate switchers to 1 will give us some more flexibility when doing smaller events, and when trying to tie in video sources to be used both on the broadcast and IMAG.

Plus, it will work, which already puts it ahead of our current situation. I will post some images of the new machine soon. In the mean time, we have switched our last Sunday with this great gear. And we are taking a huge step toward full HD production capability.

Unplugging

So yesterday was the perfect storm of personal and work events. Way too hectic. At the end of the day I was going to Disney’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party at Magic Kingdom. Once home, and getting ready to head to the park I got multiple texts, emails, and calls about work.

I love my iPhone. I use it all the time. I have a lot of useful apps, and being connected to the office has paid off countless times.

But.

I knew that the things at work would consume my family time if I didn’t get away from it. I did not want to spend the evening on the phone email, and texting. So, even though I had a handy new app for seeing Disney attraction wait times, I left my phone at home.

I’m not sure you understand how big a deal this is. I love my job, and like to excel at it. I like to be able to be responsive. I like my phone, and like to be able to look at the weather info (which we needed since it rained) and anything else I want. I love being connected.

But that connectivity comes with a leash. To have that access, I also had to be willing to see texts and messages about work, which would distract me from my family. I chose to disconnect from my electronic tether. I spent the next several hours without a phone at all. I missed it, but I enjoyed the time with family. I got home and had 6 emails and 4 texts about work. I replied to some then, and dealt with the rest today.

The world didn’t stop spinning. Work didn’t crash and burn. I survived.

I kind of liked it.

Unboxing the Panels

Because we are like school children at Christmas time, we couldn’t wait to open up at least some of the switcher boxes:

Here’s the 1ME Panel:

Here’s the larger 2ME Panel:

We got a 3ME switcher with 2 separate panels. Broadcast will use the 1ME panel, since we do all our graphics in post. The IMAG position will have access to 2MEs. From there we can do more effects, or even switch two feeds at the same time. For instance, we could control flat screens on the platform and the IMAG screen at the same time from the same position. Or we could set 1 ME to chase another without graphics, and still do a different switch on the 3rd.

The Snell comes with the HD upgrade already, so we are ready to take HD sources, when that day comes. Meanwhile, it can handle SD just as well.

By next Saturday we will be up and running, ready for the weekend.

Kodak Zi8 Still MIA

While the Zi6 is on clearance almost everywhere, and retail stores appear to be ready to get the new Kodak Zi8, I have yet to see one in person. I am not hopeful that they will be available before Christmas.

I have already said that I think this is one of the worst product launches in history, but this is getting ridiculous.