Canon announces C200 cinema camera

Yesterday, the press embargo lifted on Canon’s newest addition to its cinema camera line, the C200. Here are the tech specs:

  • Internal 4K recording with Cinema RAW Light and MP4 format
  • Continuous 120fps (maximum) High Frame Rate with no cropping at Full HD
  • Up to 15-stops dynamic range (Cinema RAW Light)
  • Super 35mm CMOS Sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF Technology
  • Dual DIGIC DV 6 Processors
  • 4K DCI and UHD, 1920 x 1080
  • 59.94p, 50p, 29.97p, 25p, 24p, 23.98p
  • Canon RAW Light, MP4, MP4 Proxy
  • Integrated EVF, 2 x XLR Audio Inputs
  • Rotating 4″ LCD Monitor, Camera Grip
  • 1 x CFast Card, 2 x SD Card Slots
  • 1 x SDI Output, 1 x Ethernet Connector

Here’s a pretty good summary by Pro AV of the key features:

My opinion: This is a weird set of features for a camera that cost $7500.

The default recording mode in HD provides only 35Mbps of quality, which is pretty much the same as the C100 Mark I (yes, Mark I) from five years ago. I’m sure the image will look great, but that data rate is painful in this day and age.

But the camera comes with RAW Light, which is great, and comes with dramatically higher data rates and file sizes (bafflingly, the much more expensive C300 Mark II does not currently support RAW Light). RAW Light records at 12bit 4K DCI at 30p and 10bit 4K DCI at 60p. There’s also talk of support for the XF-AVC codec in 2018, so that’s a huge positive.

That being said, I think it’s also Canon’s first camera for under $8000 that allows for high frame rate capture (up to 120p) in full HD, something that competitors such as Panasonic and Sony have already featured for years.

There are also a bunch of other cool things, like the fact that it supports 2 SD Cards AND a CFast card, as well as a better top-handle system than the C100 Mark II.

There’s a lot that’s appealing about the camera. There’s also a few head-scratching decisions. I wish it cost about $1000-2000 less than it does. In other words: It’s a Canon camera.

For more reading, I’d  recommend Erik Naso’s commentary on the C200.

Facebook organic reach continues to plunge

Facebook has publicly stated that organic reach on its pages for businesses and publications will decline as time goes on. For many large publishers, organic reach has been approaching 1% for a long time (that is, the number of people who see a post from a Facebook page on their personal News Feed is 1% of the people who Like that page).

Now comes a new report from Kurt Gessler at the Chicago Tribune that illustrates just how far organic reach has dropped:

Starting in January of this year, we at the Chicago Tribune started to anecdotally see a fairly significant change in our post reach.

We weren’t seeing a huge difference in post consumption or daily average reach, but we were just seeing more misses than hits. At the Tribune, we have a fairly stable and predictable audience. We had around a half million fans at the end of March and have seen slow but steady growth in the last year. Most Facebook posts fell into the 25,000 to 50,000 reach range — with a few big successes and few spectacular failures each day, usually based on the quality of the content or the quality and creativity of the share.

But starting earlier this year, we started to see far more misses. And not reaches in the low 20,000’s but 4,000 reach or 6,000 reach. Digital Editor Randi Shaffer was one of the first to notice […]

In December of 2016, we had only 8 posts with 10,000 reach or less. In January of 2017, that had grown to 80. In February, 159. And in March, a ridiculous 242 posts were seen by fewer than 10,000 people. And while late 2016 saw record lows in that lowest quartile, that 242 is far above any prior month in our dataset. And we were seeing a steady decrease in that 25,001 to 50,000 quartile. That had gone from 248 in January 2016 to 141 in March 2017.

What did this mean? In baseball terms, we were hitting far fewer doubles and we were striking out 1 every 3 times at the plate. Four months earlier, we struck out 1 of every 90 at-bats.

Gessler speculates on reasons for this change, the most plausible of which is Facebook’s algorithm. Usage of Facebook’s app as a whole could be declining, but it seems unlikely based on mobile usage statistics.

Either way, it’s a difficult time to rely on Facebook if you’re a publisher. According to a recent report from The Verge, Facebook’s Instant Articles experiment seems to not be panning out as they’d hoped, from a subscription/revenue perspective.

Media has always been a side interest for Facebook, and not essential to its core function. But I hope for the sake of a well-informed citizenry that they continue tweaking their algorithms to surface content, including news, that is relevant, interesting, and true for all users.

See also: Why Facebook’s tips for spotting fake news don’t really work very well.

Recommendation for the new Mac Pro: Make it as versatile as possible

Marco Arment, writing for his blog, on how Apple should design the new Mac Pro:

The requirements are all over the map, but most pro users seem to agree on the core principles of an ideal Mac Pro, none of which include size or minimalism:

  • More internal capacity is better.
  • Each component should have a reasonably priced base option, but offer the ability to configure up to the best technology on the market.
  • It needs to accommodate a wide variety of needs, some of which Apple won’t offer, and some of which may require future upgrades.

Or, to distill the requirements down to a single word:

  • Versatility

I agree with all of Arment’s recommendations. The pro market needs versatility to accommodate a huge variety of use cases.

I’m skeptical that Apple, which seems to prize thinness above all other design principles these days, will follow this path. That being said, their recent mea culpa seems to indicate they are open to a hard pivot on a product for this product.

Burger King is trying to trigger your Google Home

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge, about one of Burger King’s new ads:

Burger King is unveiling a horrible, genius, infuriating, hilarious, and maybe very poorly thought-out ad today that’s designed to intentionally set off Google Homes and Android phones.

The 15-second ad features someone in a Burger King uniform leaning into the camera before saying, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

For anyone with a Google Home near their TV, that strangely phrased request will prompt the speaker to begin reading the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper. It’s a clever way of getting viewers’ attention, but it’s also a really quick way of getting on viewers’ nerves — just look at the reactions people had when ads accidentally triggered voice assistants in the past.

After much use, my home assistants now feel like an extension of my household. I don’t like companies like Burger King messing with them without permission.

Side note: I’ve noticed that whenever an Amazon Echo ad comes on TV, it typically doesn’t trigger my Echo (or the ad briefly triggers the Echo before it powers down again). Not sure how Amazon is pulling this off — my guess is it involves “teaching” Alexa the audio profile of the ads and telling Alexa to ignore them — but it’s impressive.

UPDATE: Google seems to have disabled the ad’s ability to communicate with your Google Home:

New Mac Pros are coming

The Mac Pro, long thought dead by many pro users, will return. Apple recently invited several journalists from places like TechCrunch, Mashable, and Buzzfeed, to an on-the-record conversation about the future of its Mac Pros and iMacs. John Gruber at Daring Fireball sums up the news most succinctly:

Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.

I also have not-so-great news:

These next-gen Mac Pros and pro displays “will not ship this year”. (I hope that means “next year”, but all Apple said was “not this year”.) In the meantime, Apple is today releasing meager speed-bump updates to the existing Mac Pros. The $2999 model goes from 4 Xeon CPU cores to 6, and from dual AMD G300 GPUs to dual G500 GPUs. The $3999 model goes from 6 CPU cores to 8, and from dual D500 GPUs to dual D800 GPUs. Nothing else is changing, including the ports. No USB-C, no Thunderbolt 3 (and so no support for the LG UltraFine 5K display).

There are also upgraded iMacs on the way for this year, with some models theoretically targeted at professionals.

I’m fascinated by the quotes from executives, such as this one Craig Federighi:

I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will. We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed, or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialize to fit that as broadly as we hoped.

Also, here’s Phil Schiller on the decision to take a different path:

As we’ve said, we made something bold that we thought would be great for the majority of our Mac Pro users. And what we discovered was that it was great for some and not others. Enough so that we need to take another path. One of the good things, hopefully, with Apple through the years has been a willingness to say when something isn’t quite what we wanted it do be, didn’t live up to expectations, to not be afraid to admit it and look for the next answer.

It’s rare for any major company, let alone one with a culture like Apple’s, to admit they’ve made a strategic error of this magnitude, so kudos to them for their honesty. The most recent Mac Pro was indeed a massive miscalculation.

But will a new Mac Pro next year be enough to satisfy professionals? Many are already fleeing the platform due to the lack of communication up to this point. I’m not sure this news will be enough to reassure them to stay.

Why anonymous apps like Secret and Yik Yak failed

Miranda Katz, writing for Backchannel, on why apps like Secret, Yik Yak, and Whisper failed to gain traction or live up to their promise:

From the bulletin boards of the early internet to the subreddits of today, anonymity has always had a place online. But as Secret, Yik Yak, and Whisper all discovered, anonymous social networks are something of an oxymoron. An anonymous app that relies on social connections to be relevant all too easily breeds foul behavior, and quickly becomes antisocial. An anonymous app that lacks real-world social or geographical ties, meanwhile, struggles to be addictive. What does work, more or less, is an anonymous or pseudonymous group that forms around an interest, where a person’s identity matters less than their willingness to engage on a shared passion.

In Byttow’s view, a fatal flaw of anonymous social media is that using the apps doesn’t pay dividends. Users can’t build relationships or burnish their own reputations while operating without names. From time to time, people may have a piece of information they’d like to share with the world without revealing their identity, but that’s not enough to sustain a network. What makes an app sticky is positive reinforcement: more followers, more friends, more retweets. “For the most part people want to communicate with an audience,” says North. “People want credit for what they’ve said and done. Anonymity flies in the face of people’s need to have acknowledgment.”

This passage nails it: app retention is largely built around “stickiness” — what gets people to come back and keep engaging with the app. In an anonymous social network, the incentives are largely missing.

Vimeo now supports 360-degree video

Nathan Ingraham, writing for Engadget:

From a playback perspective, 360-degree playback is now integrated into the website as well as the iOS and Android apps. You can watch video in either monoscopic or stereoscopic mode — the latter of which means you’ll be able to properly view this footage while wearing a VR headset. Not all headsets are supported today, however. For starters, Vimeo’s 360 video will work with Google Daydream, Samsung’s Gear VR and the Zeiss VR One. But support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive is coming soon.

Watching these videos is pretty straightforward. On the web, you can just click and drag anywhere in the video to look around; on a smartphone, you just swipe around the screen. You can also use your computer’s trackpad to pan around, and there’s also a helpful little compass that shows which way you’re “facing” in the 360-degree landscape — tapping or clicking that restores you to the default point of view, assuming the uploader enabled it.

I am super excited about what stories 360-video will enable, especially on a site with as strong a commitment to filmmaking as Vimeo has.

First Nintendo Switch reviews hit the web

In a rather odd turn of events, the press embargo for the Nintendo Switch lifted today, resulting in a wave of console reviews. This is weird because it seemed clear from “first impressions” posts that a Day One patch might fix a lot of problems. This patch has not yet been issued, as the console does not release until March 3, 2017. As of this writing, Nintendo has not detailed what, if anything, might be in that patch.

Overall, while the reviews are cautiously optimistic (with universal praise for Switch launch title “Zelda: Breath of the Wild”), nearly every writer suggests waiting rather than buying this thing on Day One. There are just too many unanswered questions about the product roadmap and software titles at this point to make the Switch a decent investment.

Let’s begin with Kyle Orland from Ars Technica:

At this point, it looks like buying the Switch as your only game console means missing out on everything from Mass Effect and Call of Duty to The Witcher and Assassin’s Creed to Tomb Raider and Destiny. That list can go on and on. Maybe those major franchises will eventually be forced to pay attention to a Switch that absolutely flies off the shelves. For now, though, relying on the Switch for all of your gaming means risking that you’ll miss out on a huge array of the most popular and well-received current franchises. That’s a big price to pay for access to fully portable Zelda and Mario games.

Even as a secondary system, though, it’s hard for me to recommend you go out and buy the Switch immediately unless you have a burning desire to play the latest Zelda literally anywhere. The system as it exists now feels a little like it was rushed to make it to store shelves before the end of Nintendo’s fiscal year. After all, at launch there are some lingering hardware issues and extremely limited initial software support.

Ross Miller, writing for The Verge:

The most shocking thing about the Switch might be how many obvious pitfalls Nintendo has managed to elegantly avoid. Going from playing on the tablet to the TV is completely effortless, and there’s no sense of compromise whichever way you choose to play. Once you hold and use the Switch, it just makes sense.

Great hardware alone isn’t enough, of course. I have little doubt Nintendo’s first-party lineup will be amazing — Breath of the Wild alone is almost worth the cost of admission here — but the company’s weak spots have always been continuing and expanding third-party support, as well as providing a robust online service. Those are the potential pitfalls to come.

Jeff Bakalar, writing for CNet:

Unless you absolutely need to have the latest and greatest hardware on day one, you should hold off buying a Switch. If you’re a die-hard Zelda fan and have to play Breath of the Wild right away, just be aware you’re going to be shelling out $360…Wii U owners should keep in mind that the game is also hitting that console the same day.

There’s a lot that’s up in the air regarding the Switch’s future. Anything can happen. A purchase right now is definitely a gamble. First wait and see how the online functionality rolls out. E3 is less than four months away too, so hopefully there’s more clarity coming about the Switch’s roadmap.

Devin Coldewey, writing for TechCrunch, has perhaps the most positive take:

I think Nintendo has a winner here. The Switch is well made, super easy to get the “gimmick” of, though that’s not really the right term, and it does what it promises. Problem is: there’s just not much to play, and there won’t be for some time to come. I firmly believe Nintendo will make the Switch more than worth its purchase price, but there’s no reason for you to pay up front unless you really want to.

Specifically, unless you really must have Zelda on the go (it’s available for the Wii U as well), the Switch is not by any means a day-one purchase, and you can feel perfectly secure holding off for a bit. In a couple months you’re going to see game bundles, deals on accessories, additional info on things like the online services and virtual console, and more. Armed with that information you can form a better idea of what you’re willing to pay for the console. Hell, in six months you may even be able to find one used.

Personally I’m looking forward to the Switch not just as a platform for the next few first-party games, but as a platform fitting to lighter indie titles and innovative mobile crossovers. It’ll be great for kids, for people on the go, and for gamers who don’t always have the time or inclination to sit down and do the big screen thing.

Vince Ingenito, writing for IGN:

As a handheld, the Switch is a powerful piece of hardware with a gorgeous screen, but it’s too large and power hungry to feel like you can really take it anywhere. As a console, it’s underpowered, unreliable, and lacking basic features and conveniences that all of its competitors offer. It’s nicely built and cleverly designed to be used in a variety of ways, but the bottom line is that the Switch doesn’t do any one of the many things it can do without some sort of significant compromise. Our testing will continue for the next few days as we try out the online features and other functions enabled by the day-one patch, but if I had to score it now I’d give it a 6.7.

Kirk Hamilton, writing for Kotaku:

Big picture: I fundamentally like using the Switch. It accomplishes its central goal admirably, and has already gotten me thinking about it differently than my other game consoles. It also has a number of irritating flaws and hidden costs, and there are so many things about it that Nintendo still hasn’t explained.

Any new gaming hardware is defined by the games it can play, and here the Switch bucks convention. It has a single sensational launch game, albeit one that can also be played on the Wii U you might already own. The rest of its launch lineup is nowhere near as compelling, but the fact remains that playing this Zelda on the Switch has been one of the finest gaming experiences I’ve had in years. I suspect that, Wii U version or no, Breath of the Wild will entice a lot of people to buy a Switch. I couldn’t fault them for doing so.

The Polygon Staff:

Compared to the Wii U on its merits, the Switch is a slam dunk. It takes the basic concept of the Wii U, of a tablet-based console, and fulfills the promise of it in a way Nintendo simply wasn’t capable of realizing in 2012. It’s launching with a piece of software that, more than anything in the Wii U’s first year, demonstrates its inherent capability of delivering what Nintendo says is one of the Switch’s primary missions: a big-budget, AAA game that exists across a handheld device and a television-connected portable. The hardware lives up to its name in how easily and smoothly it moves between those two worlds, in how dead simple it all is to make something pretty magical happen.

But beyond Breath of the Wild’s test run and the stunning basic functionality of the Switch lies a field of other obligations and requirements for an internet-connected gaming platform in 2017, and thus far, Nintendo hasn’t done much to prove it knows what it needs to do to recover from years of blind eyes and stubborn avoidance of modern ideas. The best example that Nintendo has a finger on the pulse of the modern gaming audience is a mobile game made by another studio.

Chris Kohler, writing for Wired:

From what I’ve seen, I have high hopes: The user interface currently installed on the device is clean, fast, responsive, well-designed. You can tap the Power button to send the unit into sleep mode immediately during gameplay, and pick up your game of Zelda right where you left off. It seems like it’s a thousand times better than Wii U’s slow, clunky interface. You just can’t do anything with it yet besides start and stop a game of Zelda.

And right now, that’s about all one can say about Switch: It has a new Zelda, you can definitely play it in handheld mode, and you might be able to play it in TV mode if you’re lucky. Switch has the potential to be all things to all people: TV console, next-gen Game Boy, wacky motion controls, traditional hardcore game machine, even multiplayer-in-a-box. But today, with just hours to go before launch, Switch is lacking some basic functionality.