Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sony HDR-CX7 Camcorder Review

by Digital Camcorder News

Tapeless camcorders have become a hot ticket item and Sony is never far behind the trends. The HDR-CX7 nearly oozes ease-of-use, with few buttons or input/output jacks in sight. Sony’s first Memory Stick camcorder is definitely a looker, but will it deliver?

Quick Tour
The back of the camcorder is simple, with the power/mode switch and the record button being the only two buttons available. I really liked the recessed battery compartment, which, even with a high-capacity battery, keeps the camcorder looking slim and trim. Pull back the flaps next to the battery and you have your Mini HDMI, A/V output, and charging jack.

It should be noted that, because the battery is not fully enclosed, Sony gives you the option of using a high-capacity battery. Some manufacturers are manufacturing camcorders with enclosed battery compartments, which makes them look cleaner, but also makes it impossible for a larger battery to fit.

The LCD screen dominates the left side of the HDR-CX7, but when open (which it will be all the time since the HDR-CX7 doesn’t have a viewfinder) you have access to the main array of buttons on the camcorder. These include the back light, display button, index button, play button, easy mode, and the Nightshot switch. Also hidden underneath the LCD screen is the Memory Stick PRO Duo slot, just barely accessible when the camcorder is on a tripod.

Video Quality
Video quality on the Sony HDR-CX7 looks really, really good. The 1/2.9″ CMOS sensor, which all of Sony’s top HD camcorders use, really does the trick. Colors are saturated just a little, but not overly so. Sony definitely hit a nice color balance.

The image is sharp, and the average camcorder user will be very happy with its performance. The prosumer may be able to nitpick and find something to complain about if they compare it to, say, the Sony HDR-HC7 HDV camcorder, but, overall, in the tapeless, memory-card camcorder market, this is the best I have seen.

Sony also seems to have solved much of the problem of motion artifacting. This occurs when there is a lot of movement in a scene, and AVCHD camcorders have been notorious to this point for creating a sort of motion trail look, which seriously degrades the image. Though there was just a little bit of artifacting apparent on the HDR-CX7, I had to specifically look for it to find it.

Low-light performance was decent, and should not disappoint the point-and-shoot market for which Sony has manufactured the CX7. In situations withlow light levels, the HDR-CX7 produced a fair amount of grain.

Touch and Feel
Sony’s touch-screen menu system is not loved by all, but over the past few generations of camcorders they have evolved it into a menu system that is much better than it was previously. Point-and-shoot users will appreciate the fact that there are not that many options that you have to stress over. More advanced users will wonder where some of the manual settings have disappeared to.

The target market for the Sony HDR-CX7 is definitely point-and-shoot, but it would have been nice to see a few more manual controls. However, you do get a few things like spot focus, spot meter, white balance, and a very basic exposure setting to play around with and satisfy your controlling side.

If you still feel overwhelmed by the sparse menu options you can also elect to press the "Easy" button. This puts the CX7 into an idiot-proof mode that completely automates everything. Grandma will thank you for this.

Recorded footage can be played back right away on the camcorder by hitting the play button (who would have thought?) on the side of the camcorder or on the lower left of the LCD screen. Up comes a screen with thumbnails of the scenes you have recorded. Tap a thumbnail and your selected scene begins playing immediately.

Sony does not include a Mini HDMI cable with the Sony HDR-CX7, which is a bit of a letdown for those who want to utilize their snazzy new home theater systems. They do include the component cable, but there is no component output on the camcorder itself.

The Sony HDR-CX7 was really fun to use, and produces great quality images. I would highly recommend it for the point-and-shoot user who wants a small, compact camcorder that records to flash memory. If you are a more advanced user, make sure you are OK with only a sparse offering of manual controls.

Whether you are shooting a birthday party, family events, vacations, or just horsing around, the Sony HDR-CX7’s small size and great quality will serve you well if you can front the cash.

Pros: Small and lightweight. Easy to use. Great image quality.
Cons: No viewfinder. OIS not effective enough. Spartan manual controls.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Performing an Audio Pan in FCP


You can make your audio more dynamic in Final Cut Pro by panning sound effects from the left speaker to the right from within the Viewer Window.

A sound effect, such as a passing car panning from the left speaker to the right, can add another dimension to your project and lessen the flatness of canned sound effects.

Before you try this, keep in mind that you only need a mono clip to perform this effect, so if you have a stereo pair, unlink the two and delete one of the tracks.

1 Double click on the audio clip to load it into the viewer.
2 Click on the channel tab in the Viewer Window.
3 Option click on the purple audio spread overlay in order to get the pen tool to create keyframes and drag the points of the line so that it looks like the diagram below. When you begin to move the purple overly you will see a pink line underneath it. It helps if you think of it in this way: think of anything above the pink line as being the right channel and anything below as being the left channel.

Now the audio in this clip will pass from the left speak through the right when played.