Thursday, December 22, 2005



The HD-P2 from Tascam is now shipping apparently...supposed to be a lot cheaper than Marantz. I like the look of the display.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Transom Review M-Audio Microtrack 24/96

Transom Tools: M-Audio Microtrack 24/96: "The M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 "

Despite promises, the M-Audio track is not available in the Netherlands at the moment. It would appear they are feeding customer requirements in the US and UK first. I have given up trying to review this model in 2005. The link above is to one of the best in depth reviews I have seen so far. I am told there IS now a firmware upgrade allowing mono recording without having to make up a special lead.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Livesupport Nears Completion of First Stage

Radio is still the most powerful method of disseminating news and educational material to disadvantaged groups and in areas with high poverty, fragile technological infrastructure, and/or instability. But while radio is extremely effective, the tools available to most community stations are very limited in function. The LiveSupport project, based in Prague, seeks to address this by giving stations an open source, end-to-end solution for managing a radio station.

LiveSupport is the first free and open radio management software that provides live studio broadcast capabilities as well as remote automation in one integrated system. They have also understood that such software is worthless unless it is backed by support - and a simple way to maintain it. I've been impressed by the first betas, all of which are posted on the website
As in all Campware products, LiveSupport software is language independent: virtually everything in the user interface can be translated into any language using Unicode. Multilinguality is implemented on all levels of the user interface as well as for the metadata for audio files in the storage system.

LiveSupport has been designed for a Linux environment, but it was built it on top of standard, cross-platform classes. Such an architecture allows for easy porting of LiveSupport to different operating systems in the future.

In short, expect interesting developments in this sector from these guys in the first quarter of 2006.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Past the 500 Reactions - Thanks

Just to say thanks for the feedback already received on the Podcast recorder survey. I didn't realise people were so passionate about having better recording equipment. It is a real shame that the audio recording quality on the iPod is deliberately crippled (presumably to stop bootlegging at concerts). In the meantime, Numark has released what it calls "iDJ" which is a 2-channel mixer that enables mobile DJs and iPod enthusiasts to seamlessly integrate their portable music libraries with other music systems—transforming the iPod from a personal music player into a source playback device.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Podcast Listening in the Snow

First time I have seen snowsports headgear with built-in headphones for music. The R.E.D. hi-fi audio helmet offers padded polycarbonate shell with built-in headphones and a cord-mounted volume control for use with MP3s, MiniDisc, CD Player or radio. Anyone tried them?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wow-- keep the comments coming

Wow...I had over 150 reactions in 24 hrs about my call for comments on the ideal recorder for radio reporters. People seem to be mad as hell that the ideal, simple, foolproof recorder doesn't seem to be available.

I believe passionately that this situation needs to change. Keep up the comments stream. I am listening and your input is very important!!

More details here

Monday, November 14, 2005

Transom Tools Review Marantz PMD 660

Good review of the Marantz PMD-600 on this website, including comments about its sturdyness and a recommendation not to use dynamic microphones.
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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Heil Microphones

Heard Adam Curry record a recent podcast with a Heil PR-40 dynamic microphone and it really sounded rich and smooth (even in MP3). The closest sound yet to my Rode NT2 which I still think is classic microphone for presenters. Cost for the Heil PR-40? US$325. Advantage of the Heil is that it doesn't need phantom power.

Bob Heil is also well-know in amateur radio circles for his work in audio processing. The PR 40 features the new technology of the Heil DM 6 dynamic element with response down to 28 Hz. and stays perfectly flat up through 18kHz. with a beautiful mid range rise giving this new microphone gorgeous vocal articulation.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Not sure if this will work...

Below is a press release which came out today from the M-audio guys. Bearing in mind the price of a 8 or 12 channel Mackie mixer, this podcast mixer and audio package is on the expensive side (US$179). Looks kinda "fiddly" with the rotary faders - or is it just me?

Los Angeles, CA, November 10, 2005 — M-Audio, a leading provider of creative tools for computer-centric musicians, is proud to announce the release of the Podcast Factory professional podcasting solution. The Podcast Factory bundle includes all the hardware and software required to create broadcast-quality podcasts using a Mac or PC.

At the heart of Podcast Factory bundle lies the Podcast Factory audio interface with microphone preamp. This 2 x 2 mobile audio interface delivers professional audio fidelity up to 24-bit/48kHz. The first of two audio channels is a dedicated XLR input for the included dynamic microphone, complete with gain control and signal LEDs. The ¼” input on the second channel toggles between instrument and line levels to accommodate a wide variety of signal sources. Audio outputs take the form of dual RCAs and a front-panel 1/8” stereo headphone jack that share a common level control.

Direct hardware monitoring provides for synchronized overdubs, with the In/PB knob determining the monitor balance between input and output signal. For additional monitoring flexibility, the Mono switch sends the input signal equally to the left and right channels, allowing the source to integrate in a more balanced way with other tracks while recording.

The Podcast Factory bundle includes software that easily lets users of any level record and edit program material such as speech, add music and sound effects, and post MP3s with RSS feeds to the Web. Users also get a collection of music loops in a wide variety of genres.

The Podcast Factory bundle is compatible with both Macs (Core Audio) and PCs (ASIO 2 and WDM – Kernel Streaming). PC minimum system requirements are Windows XP (SP1) running on a Pentium II 350 w/ 64MB RAM. Minimum requirements on the Mac are G3* 300MHz/G4* 350MHz with OS X 10.2.8 or greater and 128MB RAM. The Podcast Factory interface is just 5.5" x 4.25" x 1.75” (14 x 10.8 x 4.5 cm) and weighs in at a mere .45 lbs (.2 kg).

“Podcasting is a major phenomenon, spurred in no small part by Apple’s iTunes initiatives,” says Adam Castillo, marketing director at M-Audio. “The Podcast Factory provides a comprehensive solution for producing professional podcasts for applications as diverse as personal broadcasts, music promotion, corporate training, virtual seminars, education and more. Podcast Factory allows anyone with a message to easily create podcasts that incorporate the production values of radio-quality broadcasts.”

The Podcast Factory bundle is expected to ship in November and carries a price of $179.95 MSRP.

* native USB port required; G3/G4 accelerator cards not supported.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Yahoo Think Tank

Yahoo Think Tank Check the link before Nov 17th. Like it...
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Help needed with survey

Perhaps you can help me build the best independent consumer-advice guide for radio reporters and podcasters? Radio production went digital ages ago. But radio reporters (especially freelance feature makers) have been struggling with recorders that are either modified consumer equipment or "special" units designed by people who have never had to make a programme to a deadline. The picture above would be great - except that the Apple iPod doesn't make good speech recordings to broadcast standard! Many of the guides I have picked up at trade shows are hopelessly out of date or go into far too much technical detail. I believe passionately that this situation needs to change.

More details here

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Flashman Recorder

Mayah's Flashman recorder. This is a rugged Flash recorder designed for the radio journalist. It is rugged and accepts Canon inputs from a microphone. But at 1279 Euro from outlets in the UK (including VAT) it is very expensive compared to the newer competition from M-audio and Nagra. I wonder when the price will drop. They now come in various colours, though the website says the Silver (standard) colour is still the preferred choice for many.  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Nagra ARES-M

Thanks to a tip from Ward Weis, I realise that Nagra has come out with an update to their "asthma monitor" recorder Ares-PII (so called because I got the recorder past Nigerian customs by saying it was to measure my lung capacity as someone who suffers from allergies. No, that wasn't a microphone". I bought an ARES-PII when I worked for Radio Netherlands and we tested it in the field many times.

The shape was a bit off putting for some people - although the recordings with the capsule microphone were superb. However, at nearly 2000 Euro (when you had purchased all the accessories that were really essential) it was hard to justify the cost/quality, alongside other flash recorders from people like Maycom and Mayah.

The new recorder is MUCH smaller (more like the size of a mobile phone or the original I-pod) and retails at US$995 on some US websites, including the dynamic microphone. It seems this product was announced on May 26th 2005. I did ask at the Nagra stand at IBC 2005 in September, but they didn't show me this, only the older Ares-PII+

The Oades brothers audio forum points out that the 1 GB memory is internal and NOT removable. Although that means the card is less likely to be lost, it means you have to use the Mini USB cable to connect to the laptop to transfer the audio. Oades reports the transfer speed is VERY slow...says it takes
15 minutes to copy a 30 minute 16/48 stereo WAV file
(about 330MB). If correct, that's going to be a serious problem for news journalists in the field who want to keep the audio in the digital domain.

On the plus side, the Nagra ARES-M is extremely small and light (similar to the I-pod), but offering a thousand times better audio quality (I-pod restricts the audio quality of recordings to 8 kb/sec - ludicrous. Yes, there is a hack, but it voids the warranty). There is a built-in FM radio (though the press release doesn't say whether you can record directly from the radio. It works on 2 AA batteries and can store up to 10 hours of (stereo) audio onto the 1 GB memory.

The first production units will be shipped from Switzerland in November 2005, according to Nagra who phoned me this morning. I hope to do a side-by-side with the M-audio in mid-November. It is pointless reviewing the prototypes....if there are problems, manufacturers will blame you for testing a pre-launch model. I am only interested in what the average user will find. Watch this space for our independent evaluation.

 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

DR-100- Professional Audio Recorder.


Could this be the competition to the new M-Audio recorder mentioned below? The AEQ company is headquartered in Madrid, Spain, although it has a branch in Florida and was at IBC 2005. They concentrate on mixing desks, but a sales assistant was able to show me a prototype of what he claimed was the world's smallest flash recorder. It reminds me of the early Nokia phones, being 120 by 45 by 22 mm in size. It records in G.723, MP3 and MP2 compression formats with sampling rates between 32 and 320 kbps. They claim the battery will last 10 hours. The unit has a built-in FM radio as well, with 20 presets. The DR-100 comes complete with an external mike, case, headphones and editing software for use on a PC. No price mentioned at IBC 2005. I have sent e-mails to try and find out more. Posted by Picasa

M-Audio Microtrack Update

M-Audio Microtrack
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.

A couple of weeks back, Guido van Nispen showed me what looks like a great gadget for both radio and podcasters. It is going to cost 500 Euros(including BTW, plus the cost of memory cards. My first impressions about an 8 minute play around - looks good, although the colour looks a bit cheap. Technically it is a nice piece of equipment and very easy to use! The unit has professional input jacks (balanced) for an external mike (internal one is really only emergency quality), and 2 hours of battery life between charges. (The brochure claims 8, but Guido (who has the only prototype in Europe) has other experiences). You can get about 8 hours of excellent quality MP3 and WAV recordings on a 1 GB flash memory.

MP3 recording rates possible: 96 to 320kbps at 32, 44.1 or 48kHz
PCM (linear) recording possible : 16 or 24-bit at 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96kHz

The company M-Audio is owned by Avid. Dealers in Europe, including Mafico in the Netherlands, tell me the first production units expected at the end of November -early December at the earliest. The unit is made in China. There does not seem to be a way (on the prototype) to double the left or right channel to get full-track mono. We've passed that suggestion on to the manufacturers...would be useful.

Another death knell for the Sony Mini-Disc in this branch of the business.

Another view M-Audio prototype

Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
The device uses Compact Flash memory (cheaper than Memorystick) and can be read by most card readers. I have good experiences with the Scandisk Professional series - less prone to read/write errors than the standard Compact Flash Discs I used for a couple of years with Nikon 990 camera.

Sony PCDM-1

They will be frisking you for one of these at the next rock concert. In December, Sony is promising the PCDM-1 recorder, aimed at the musicians market since the price is a hefty US$2000. It has that warm glow of a guitar amplifier.....familiar to musicians. It will scare the life out of the average reporter...would you stick this under a politicians nose?

As is usual with Sony, the model number is strange. Don't confuse it with the PCMM-1 Portable DAT recorder (below) which I assume is now to be discontinued. The PCMM-1 is seen in shops for around US$840, list price well over US$1000.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sony MMR-60 Mini FM Transmitter Launched

According to Engadget & a press release from Sony-Ericsson has launched a mini-FM transmitter (a bit like the I-trip) but then designed to broadcast the music on your mobile phone all over the house, to be picked up on a normal FM radio. Hidden down the bottom of the press release is the note that this is not going to be in Europe.....against the law.

Note: Since FM-transmitters are not allowed in all countries yet, it will be launched in countries where we know it is allowed. This currently includes USA, South America, Australia and some countries in Asia. As we get knowledge about other countries allowing this, this list will grow.

Don't hold your breath that the list will grow. I don't see much restriction on these devices, simply because the strength is so low they are unlikely to cause interference problems in most situations.

 Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 10, 2005

SonyEricsson 990i Phone as a cam/audio recorder?

I wonder if this new Sony-Ericsson 990i is going to be any use for reporters in the field when they are 'first on the scene". The audio in the old 800 was great. Sony has released info in the hope of encouraging application developers. They claim release in the first quarter of 2006. So look for it in the shops in May - June 2006. The phone will also come out in North America too. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 08, 2005

If you're into HD production this weblog is worth following. They have also started to find HDef Easter eggs in TV productions like "My Name is Earl". These are bits than only 16 by 9 viewers see on the edge of their screens Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 07, 2005

Put maps on your ipod. Useful? I'd give it a 6 out of 10. And you? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 06, 2005

OJO - In Your Face Communication

So is the stand-alone gadget to enable broadcasters to do cheap video conference meetings? Nope...but interesting to see the design. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Revision3 - the secrets of podcasting


Interesting videocast with a how to podcast presentation - as well as a visit to Leo Laporte of This Week in Tech fame. Interesting to see what he has as kit....I notice he is a Mackie Onyx user as well.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Radio Heritage Foundation - Home

Radio Heritage Foundation - Home: "Radio changed the world. This electronic marvel bought drama, news and music into millions of lounge rooms and made stars superstars. People no longer needed to dress up and travel to major theatres. They could gather as a family and listen as the magic of entertainment was reproduced by the best piece of furniture in the house"

One of the best radio heritage sites around - from the Pacific viewpoint.

Monday, October 03, 2005

So long MiniDisc; don�t slam the door on the way out - Engadget -

Engadget seems to agree with the notion that Sony Minidisc is also heading for the chopping block. In my view - it cannot come fast enough. Sony never took this format seriously enough to make Professional recorders themselves (it was left to others to try). And there was never a "Norton Utilities" for the discs to rescue corrupted tables of contents. Trying to make a HD version is a bit like Apple trying to extend the life of the old Apple IIe with the IIg. Remember that? No? Oh well.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Bose & the 21st Century

Bose makes a great set of noise-cancelling headphones, albeit rather expensive (275 UK pounds). I am refering to the QuietComfort 2 series, designed in the US and manufacturered in China. The headphones sit the best on my (bald) head, in contrast to a pair I bought in Tokyo airport in 2003 from Sony MDR-NC20. They sound good too. Bose is clever in its marketing - inside the case are a few "courtesy" cards with info on the headphones - to give to people on planes who ask what you're wearing.

I am also impressed by the warranty. A crack appeared in the plastic on one side of the headphones (as a result of regular use in the last year) and Bose replaced the unit within 4 days (sent back to Dutch distributor), no questions asked. I have no idea why a technology company restricts its product registration to the US though. Better customer satisfaction through research?

Thank you for choosing Bose. Online registration is available for US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands residents only. All other customers please visit Bose Worldwide.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Logitech has better cameras - not animation

Now this is interesting. Logitech wants to sell a new generation of webcams that record video at 1.3 Megapixels and have noticeably improved audio (there is better echo cancelling software which is handy if you want to use Skype without headphones).

I just bought an older Webcam 4000 version in the UK and discovered it only took pictures at 1.3 Megapixels, video was just standard VGA. The problem in the PC World I was in (in Norwich) was that they clearly had a mixture of old and new stock. The Logitech packaging has the "specification icons" along the bottom of the packaging, rather than on the back where you tend to look first.

The new webcams for notebooks cost just under US$100 in the USA, 80 bucks for the Webcam 5000 designed for home desktop use.

Logitech have also just introduced a sort of animation gimmick called Logitech Video Effects, which looks like a crude version of the Talking Headz idea from (see the IBC 2005 report lower down). It is a first time that a webcam manufacturer has adopted this technology. But, contrary to Logitech's "first-of-its-kind" claims, Gizmoz was the first to launch the concept via MSN and other chat networks. Actually, it would be great if the two would work together. Gizmoz makes the better animation software. And Logitech are clearly ahead with their cameras.

I think the quality of the audio on these new webcams is worth investigating for live radio reporters. I keep a webcam with the laptop as a back-up. And video conferencing is going to become as important as the Skype conferencing. It really is "plug and play".

Friday, September 30, 2005


My ancient Sony-Ericsson P800 is too old to work on this Phobile device from Firebox. 50 Euro for a recycled phone handset and a cable. Brilliant marketing. OK, we strayed off topic here. Have a nice weekend.

Radio in a Crisis?

There is going to be another natural disaster. Someday, Some place. It may be the result of a tidal wave, or a medical crew trying to deal with an outbreak of human-bird flu viruses).

New Orleans, Sri Lanka, Banda Aceh.... the list goes on about how people need radio to recover from natural disasters. It is the lifeline when the phones go off as well as the power. After the tsuanami (remember that?) , local radio in places like Banda Aceh has been of great assistance in helping people to restore their faith in humanity and rebuild their lives. I am currently gathering information of "lessons learned", following up on several projects that started immediately following the Dec 26th Tsunami. Radio stations (and receivers) were donated by several organisations around the world, but what lessons have been learned now that some of these stations have been on the air for around 3-6 months. It is clear that from the people I have spoken to so far that stations need to be purely digital on the production side (i.e. computers instead of Mini-Disc), but good old-fashioned analogue on the distribution side (FM transmitters and simple FM wind-up radios).

The Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies have food-parcels stored in strategic locations around the world, ready to respond when the disaster strikes. But I have not seen "FM Radio Station" kits on stand-by, i.e. a complete FM station and, say, 5000 wind-up FM radios ready to go into an area to keep people informed as to what is happening and who is looking for who.

I am working on several "kits" that would be used to set up emergency FM stations after a natural disaster. It needs to be robust - but also cheap and no frills. After some experimentation, I am convinced that the simple analogue mixing desk from Mackie ( their 1220) is one of the best solutions - a mixing console for 738 Euros including local taxes in the Netherlands. It plugs straight into the wall (no transformer bricks) and works on anything between 100-240 volts, ideal if it has to work from a generator.

On the transmitter front, I have been impressed with Veronica transmitters (for really local work) and the BW Broadcast range of transmitters. The transmitters need to rugged but simple to maintain. I like the fact that if the power transistor in the BW range of FM transmitters should fail, it can simply be unscrewed by anyone and soldering needed. It's more like replacing a fuse.

If you built these units into some strong flight cases , you should still be able to build an FM station to go for under Euros 9000. I am interested in other peoples' experiences too. Please add a comment below or drop me a line

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Only Sony?

I've said it before in other public forums, Panasonic - but especially Sony - are becoming dinosaurs in many sectors of the consumer electronics and broadcast industry. It is the smaller companies that are perceived as innovative. Sony showed in IFA Berlin that it has seriously lost its way. Like the buttons on some of the PSP controllers, they are stuck. In Berlin, Sony chucked some technology into a darkened room and hoped that the public would find a context for it. They sure don't understand it. Sony has persisted with its own in-house standards like ATRAC audio compression, when the outside world was screaming MP3. I'm keeping their fall 2005 catalogue as an example of how NOT to get concepts over to the public....every "new" technology feature is given its own brand name. People do not write this down and then go to the store with a list of techno brand names.

In the broadcast world, Sony has been a very traditional production company concentrating on television. They are very poor at integrating their solutions with other platforms - like new media and radio. They are much too expensive for what they deliver. I would argue their only contribution to radio production was the Sony Pro cassette recorder and a great pair of closed headphones. Sony Minidisc has been a great example of a fragile consumer technology misused by freelancers to try and work to professional standards. If you have Minidiscs, make sure you copy off the contents to another media (e.g. hard-disk) as soon as possible. Ten years from now you are not going to find a minidisc player to play this stuff back. Remember 5 1/4 inch floppy discs? By stating that the new Walkman Phones will not support ATRAC music formats, Sony effectively killed the Minidisc in March of this year. BBC reports that Sony shares have lost two thirds of their value. In Thursday's trading, its share price fell 2.2%. I am curious to see what Sir Howard Stringer will do to put them back on the map - like no other.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

4096 x 2160 pixel resolution - HD cinema

Bit off topic I know, but in terms of digital projectors, Sony stole the show at IBC by building a theatre in the middle of hall 9 and showing film clips from, amongst others, Mystic India (a recent IMAX film). The depth and emotional impact of the picture was abosolutely superb. And they got the sound right too. Great show. Wonder when my local cinema here might invest in such equipment? 2020-2025?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Panasonic 2600 series of rechargeables

What's this? Yes it is a 2600 mAh AA rechargeable battery! Capacity of rechargeable cells has been gradually creeping up with the popularity of (thirsty) digital cameras and flash recorders.

In Europe, sales of rechargeables are up 73% in volume over the last 12 months. Panasonic is claiming it has increased the capacity of the AA size cells by 10% over it rivals. In addition, the new and improved chargers keep up with the evolution towards increased battery capacity and a shorter charging cycle. I bought some 2500's in the US in June, but 2600 is indeed new. That extra capacity over the older 1800 mAh types is noticeable - also in wireless microphones. I notice that the new types of Ni-MH batteries hold their charge quite well too (i.e. a number of weeks).

One important fact too - the battery blister pack is easy to open. I have had to take some products back to the duty-free at Schiphol airport because I could NOT open the blister seal without a knife - guess what - not allowed in airports these days. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 16, 2005

Propaganda Podcasting Software

I have been playing with various demos of podcasting software for the PC. This one, called Propaganda, is the best I have found so far, especially if you "produce" your podcast (i.e. mix tracks afterwards, add music beds, etc. It looks polished and professional and copes with MP3 and WAV files. In short, it is worth the 50 US dollar download. The demo works without restrictions, except there is a audio banner ad every few minutes to say you are using the trial version. This software also posts your podcast to the host automatically.

Edirol - Noisy for voice recordings

The new R1
Several companies have come with MP-3 or MPEG-2 recorders designed for radio journalists. They are all based on the use of flash memory. This is the latest from a US company called EdiRol and is sold through the music trade (shops that sell guitar amplifiers and the like).

The US$440 unit (street price in the US) includes two electret mics, a 64MB Compact Flash card, an optical-output jack, and 9 recording modes from 64kbps MP3 to 24-bit linear WAV. It can transfer a max-resolution 60 minute recording (908MB) to a PC over USB-2 in around 3 minutes.

I tried one for a morning in August 2005 - but I was disappointed that the input circuitry for the microphone was not that sensitive. It would be great if I wanted to record a guitar, but not a podcast interview. In short, I was disappointed. Anyone had similar experiences?

Marantz PMD-660

This is probably one of the best portable flash recorders for reporters on the market at the moment - I think it is more robust that the Flashman and it is surprisingly light. The device works off 4 AA cells and the compact flash memory cards that you find in most camera stores. The older (and larger) 670 is infact older and - to my mind at least - a bit too heavy for average reporting. The 660 would be my choice. Price? The Dutch importer Niehoff wants 610 Euros (ex 19% VAT) for one.

There is also a special remote control cable called the Marantz RC600N-XLR which fits onto any microphone and allows you to make markers on the recording as you go along. A LED gives the status of the recording, with an orange colour being a warning that the recording is peaking. This cable (without the microphone) costs 125 Euros (ex VAT). That must be a world record for a 1.6 metre cable and a switch. Stuff the markers, for that price I'll use a notepad!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Parrot - for 1000 Euro

Youcom is a Delft based equipment manufacturer which has concentrated on the European radio market for several years. At IBC this year, they launched a prototype of what they called Parrot, a small unit that clips to your belt and sends better quality audio via Bluetooth through your mobile phone. This unit is unique in also sending a data version of the last recording over the GPRS network with the push of one button. The data system of the mobile is slow - one minute of audio takes 5 minutes to upload to a server at the radio station. But the resulting audio quality is much better than using a mobile phone live in transmission. No fixed price at IBC or delivery date. Early 2006 and around 1000 Euros were the indication.

Antics Outside the Studio

As an independent producer, I want to save as much money on studio time, so preparation is the key.

And when it comes to planning it looks like the people from Antics have taken a leaf out of a game my daughters are playing...Sims 2.

You use the software to draw your own story boards, place the cameras and then work out camera angles. The software runs on most PCs working at 3 GHz and costs around 900 Euros. The company is working on an improved version with the BBC which should be out in January. Well worth investigating if your planning to shoot action or drama. It is also a great piece of kit for training television students.

Great Animations from Gizmoz

It is clear that animation has a big future…just look at the success of Shrek2 and Madagascar. On the new media side, I think people forget how popular programmes like MSN messenger are…there around 140 million users worldwide.

Now look what one company has done to combine the emoticons used to convey emotion in messages with one of the world’s best graphics engines used for broadcast television. The Israeli company of Gizmoz has worked with the graphics company VIZRT to produce a production tool allowing you to make your own version of spitting image - in a matter of minutes. They took two shots of my face, one from the front, the other from the side. From that they generate a 3D image and put this into the VIZRT graphics engine. The next thing you know you're in a panel game with George Bush, Elvis or whoever.

The same company is beta testing an add-on to Yahoo!, ICQ, AOL AIM, MSN and Skype Instant Messenger users to animate emoticons.

I-Pal Personal PVR

Portable screens are getting better. Archos, a French company, have a number of portable players out there which are aimed at the consumer. The AV700 has a 7 inch screen - though I prefere the slightly smaller AV500 which has a better screen resolution. Both devices make my AV300 obsolete in the extreme.

But the best picture at the IBC show was on another device. The UK company of Electronic Visuals showed their I-Pal (the EV7010), which is a portable video recorder retailing at around 500 pounds sterling. It was clearly the best portable screen at the show - at that size (7 inch screen).

The unit has a 20 GB hard drive and converts video input into MPEG-4 format. Did an excellent job of displaying JPEGS too.

LED Projector for 700 Euro

I’d like to share some screen news …starting with a rather unusual projector Wim Van der Hoeven of Mitsubishi Electric in The Netherlands showed me something they’re planning for Christmas for 700 Euro…

It's an LED projector, one of the first of its kind. It weighs 500 grams and uses DLP technology. This bulb is designed to last 10,000 hours. Unlike conventional projectors, this one has no fan - because it doesn't get hot. The snag at the moment is that the projector needs a really dark room since it only produced 15 Lumens of light. But it is great for small screen presentations for a group. The battery clips onto the bottom of the unit and goes for about 2 hours between charges. I think 5 years from now, most of the projectors we’ll see will be driven by LEDs not lamps.

Sony beats the rattle out of Sennheiser

Here is a recommendation to go for the new Sony UTX-P1 wireless microphone set, instead of the Sennheiser SKP 30U which is a very similar miniature plug-on transmitter. The Sony device is new, the Sennheiser equivalent has been around for about 18 months.

Sennheiser's blurb says that "any cabled microphone (even condenser microphones) can be instantly converted to RF wireless operation - simply by plugging the transmitter into the microphone connector." That is misleading. The microphone needs to have a metal casing, since the transmitter uses the metal case of the microphone as an antenna. And the locking ring at the bottom is certainly not suitable for all Sennheiser micrphones. If you start to rely on the strength of the spring inside the XLR-3 connector on the Sennheiser (made by Neutrik AG so I was told), then you will be sorely disappointed after a few months standard use - the microphone starts to rattle on the end of the transmitter creating annoying rattle noise.

I think that’s a design fault, but the manufacturers don’t agree with me - and were extremely unhelpful at IBC, making out that this was not a problem. Curiously the Sennheiser UK site says there is now a 10 year guarantee on these components, - but only for products purchased after August 1st 2005....oh what a shame I do not qualify.

I’m going to test the Sony version to see if it is any better. In the meantime, I'm looking for alternatives to Sennheiser.