Product Notes & News

Magewell Pro Convert hardware NDI encoders

Magewell is launching a new range of hardware converters, with HDMI and SDI versions, which generate IP video using NewTek's NDI protocol. The first model, which we have been testing since before IBC 2018, is the HDMI 4K version at around $999 projected price, with other models to follow, including SDI and cheaper HD-only versions. You can read more about some our tests on our Facebook pages for ZEN Computer Services and ZEN NDI Software.


Create NDI routing switchers in any size from 6in-2out up to 20in-24out

The ZEN NDI Router has had a makeover during the summer of 2018, which includes the variable size creation facility, Routing Preset switch buttons and full Config file load/save capability for quicker restoration of favourite configurations.


BirdDog Studio NDI encoders available from ZEN

On demo and available to buy from ZEN, the BirdDog Studio is a portable NDI converter designed to take an SDI or HDMI input and transmit it using the full-quality NDI protocol over a LAN via gigabit ethernet. It also acts as an HDMI>SDI or SDI>HDMI converter, and is particularly suitable for converting the output of video cameras into a production-quality IP feed for use with a variety of switchers, including NewTek's Tricaster and other software switchers like vMix, Wirecast, VidBlaster and OBS.

Pro Capture HDMI 4K Plus LT (includes Loop Thru output)

A revised version of the 11150 Pro Capture HDMI 4K Plus has been introduced, featuring a Loop Thru HDMI 2.0 output of the incoming HDMI signal. The LT version has p/n 11152, and is available at the same price as the 11150.

4K versions of the Magewell USB Capture Plus

Magewell 32090 USB Capture HDMI 4K Plus

First out of the gate was the 4K HDMI version, now joined by the 6G SDI version. See Magewell prices here

Colour Gradient Background generator for NDI

Adding to out existing selection of software utilities which make use of NewTek's NDI protocol for production video over local networks, the NDIGradBG app generates 4-way colour gradients in various styles. Download here.

Magewell USB Capture Plus

Adding to the existing Plug-&-Play USB Capture range (the HDMI & SDI dongles), the new USB Capture Plus video capture devices are available in three different versions.

  • HDMI - with loop through & analogue audio I/O
  • SDI - with loop through & analogue audio I/O
  • DVI - with breakout cable & analogue audio I/O

Like the existing dongles, the new Magewell devices continue to work in Plug-&-Play mode, ensuring simple driver-less operation and compatibility with a wide range of host software applications. However, a software utility allows control over the video settings in a manner similar to the Pro Capture cards.

These products are now shipping, and were officially launched on Magewell's booth at ISE 2017 in Amsterdam, which ran from 7-10th Feb at the RAI.

HDMI & SDI  versions include pass-through ports

Magewell USB Capture Plus HDMI SDI DVI

For Magewell pricing, see the Magewell page

ZEN and Magewell at IBC 2016 - Amsterdam RAI  9-13 September

ZEN will be helping Magewell at IBC 2016

Martin will be in Amsterdam for the IBC 2016 exhibition and can be found (for much of the time) on Magewell's booth C79 in Hall 5 (that's at the northern end of the complex, to the right as you enter via the main entrances)

The Magewell booth will feature the new 4K cards along with the rest of the product range of PCIe and USB3 video capture devices.

There will also be a demonstration of NDI,  using a Quad input Pro Capture card to ingest multiple HD input signals and transmit them to a second PC via NDI.

 More from Magewell


NOTE: The ZEN office in Salford will be closed for the duration of IBC in September.

Magewell Pro Capture 4K cards

Adding to the existing Pro Capture range, and sharing the same common driver, the new 4K cards are available in four versions.

  • HDMI - up to 4K at up to 30fps
  • AIO - SDI & HDMI at 30 fps
  • HDMI Plus - up to 4K at 60fps
  • AOI Plus - 6G SDI (4Kp30) & HDMI up to 4Kp60

Magewell cards offer different features to Blackmagic, who typically only support broadcast video resolutions and have limited on-board processing, whereas Magewell are aiming at other markets as well, where computer output needs to be captured (at other resolutions - eg 2560x1440) and streaming applications, where one input might need to be recorded and streamed at different resolutions. The Magewell cards can supply multiple different sized streams to different host applications simultaneously, unlike the Blackmagic cards.

All-In-One (AIO) & HDMI-only versions

Magewell 4K AIO HDMI plus video capture cards

For Magewell pricing, see the Magewell page


Magewell USB3 Video Capture Dongle re-engineered

This versatile pocket-sized USB3 video & audio capture device for Windows (or Mac), available in two versions with either HD-SDI or HDMI input, has been re-engineered into a robust metal case (pictured above-left) with a larger USB3 connecter, replacing the original plastic-cased version (on the right)

It will auto-detect the video resolution and, in the case of the HDMI version, accept a wide range of graphics card output sizes as well as regular broadcast video resolutions, either SD or HD, with stereo audio.

It requires no drivers to be installed, as it emulates a standard webcam and uses the default Microsoft drivers, making it suitable for use with any streaming or capture software designed to allow a webcam for input. Embedded audio is also supported and appears as a standard Windows audio recording device. More from Magewell

Shaune Harrison Make-up Academy

We have an exciting new neighbour, co-located in the same building as ZEN. Specialising in prosthetics for film & television, the make-up academy will run a range of courses including:-

  • Basic prosthetics & bald caps
  • Casualty FX & wounds
  • Sculpting & life casting
  • Prosthetics & make-up SFX

Shaune is a highly experienced proponent of prosthetics, having worked on films like Star Wars Ep1, Captain America, The DaVinci Code, World War Z, The Fifth Element, Sleepy Hollow, Stardust, The Mummy and the Harry Potter series.

For more information, see

at 3B Quays Reach (upstairs from ZEN)

Shaune Harrison Make-up Academy

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

We have a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera on demo, and have been experimenting with various (older) lenses, including building a rig to use 2/3" B4 zoom lenses with the BMPCC. More news and test results to follow...

BMPCC - A demo unit of the Pocket Cinema Camera

Live web streaming support services for small-scale events and webinars

Live web streaming and vision mixing from the desktopZEN Computer Services are launching a new back-end service to support live web streaming for smaller-scale events, product launches, training sessions, and suchlike. The service is aimed at video production companies and videographers with little or no prior experience of web streaming who have been asked to provide such a service as an add-on to existing video coverage.

At its simplest level, ZEN will provide the encoding equipment and operator, and provide quality-control monitoring of the stream during transmission.

The supporting services can be extended to include audio mixing and software vision mixing, allowing multiple cameras to be used, along with caption overlays and vision inserts from virtual VTRs. Whilst not intended as a replacement for a full OB, the system allows many of the same elements to be included in a live web broadcast, operated from a desktop PC, at a relatively modest cost.

Final details and rate card are still being worked on, but please phone or email if this is of interest

Panasonic AG-AF101 test shoot - interview footage

On 10th Dec '10, Martin was invited to an open day at Holdan, who are distributors for the AF101, the PAL-world version of the AF100. It afforded a chance to see this new camera and perform some hands-on tests.

Martin took the opportunity to shoot an interview with Richard Payne of Holdan talking about what Panasonic have given us with the AG-AF101, the new micro four-thirds video camera which records to AVCHD files from a single, large format sensor. The lens used was a Zeiss Distagon Compact Prime 35mm T2, with lighting from an LED panel for the key, plus tungsten fill, back and background lighting. Sound was from a 416 short gun mic on a stand, plugged directly into the camera.

    An interview shot with, and talking about, the AG-AF101 camera

  Panasonic AG-AF101 test footage in HD, from Martin Kay on Vimeo

Encoded 1280x720, so best viewed Full Screen on the Vimeo site, in HD

also available on YouTube in 1920x1080 HD - Click Here  

Martin's comments:-
In use, the camera is not unlike Panasonic's other handi-cams (the 151 & 171) in many ways, but without the need to switch all the lens functions into manual mode, should that be the way you like to work. Since this was shot at an open day, in a relatively small space with other people present, there was not time for me to fully explore every feature and option that the camera has to offer, but I did want to take some footage away with me that was a little more meaningful than just pointing the camera at whatever was around me, lit only by the standard fluorescent house lighting. I hope this video gives some flavour as to the image quality of which this camera is capable when combined with quality lenses.

Part of the team at the IOV VideoSkills Roadshows

This year Martin has been one of the trainers at the IOV Videoskills Roadshows, aimed at helping videographers improve their basic skills. In the course of the day the topics covered include lighting, sound, camerawork and editing, with a two-handed interview as the sample subject matter. This is the resulting video from the Naas event.
Shot on a Canon XF305 and recorded in their 50MB/s 4:2:2 MPEG2  "BBC-approved" compression format. Edited in Premiere CS5. Lit with Kinoflo Diva 400 and Dedolights, and recorded on a 416 mic on a boom, connected directly to the XF305 camcorder.

    The last VideoSkills Roadshow was on 10th Nov in Naas, Ireland

  IOV Videoskills Roadshow - Naas in HD, from Martin Kay on Vimeo

Encoded 1280x720, so best viewed Full Screen on the Vimeo site, in HD

A short video about lighting in modern office buildings   

Lighting in modern office buildings

Inspired by the techniques shown at the IOV Videoskills Roadshows, in this short video Martin talks about, and demonstrates, the benefits of using lighting when filming in modern office buildings. With modern cameras able to get a well exposed picture in fairly low light, it's easy to forget what a difference lighting can make.

 Watch the video here

Click on image to enlarge

The changing face of Manchester

Those of you who have bought systems from us in the last few years may be familiar with our "Manchester Skyline" Windows wallpaper image (left) taken in January 2003 (from outside our old premises in Salford Quays). There has been a huge increase in residential building in the city since then, including the Beetham Tower, so we thought we'd offer an updated image from Summer 2006 (right).

Looking back at Caption Generation ...   

Aston keyboard detail Back in the days before microprocessors, Character Generators were members of the Graphics Department armed with sheets of Letraset and cardboard. The finished caption cards were then handed over to the stage crew who acted as "Caption Pullers". For a title caption sequence, cards were stacked in shooting order alternately into two separate piles (like A/B film rolls) and placed on blackboard-style easels somewhere in the studio. Two cameras (and cameramen) would be assigned to shooting the captions, with the Vision Mixer switching between them. As soon as the red light went out on the camera, the Caption Puller would pull the top caption off the pile and the cameraman would frame up on the one underneath.

The more complicated captions were made as a multi-layer cardboard sandwich, with holes in the front layer behind which cardboard tabs could be pulled out to reveal additional text or images beneath. Each one had to be individually made by hand and, with a few exceptions like the opening/closing station logo, could rarely be used again. (read more...)

The art of better sound - when to say "No"  (article on the support page)

For some people, their experience of recording sound starts with making wedding videos or recording other live events. As a sound recordist, youíre there to capture whatever is happening, as best you can. Getting better sound under those conditions usually involves better equipment, or making better use of what youíve already got. But not all shoots are like that, and itís easy to fall into the trap of thinking thatís the only way of working. What Iím saying is that whenever you can have any control over your environment, you should try to make use of it.

Directors and cameramen donít make things easy. Sound is rarely seen as being as important as the pictures, and the soundman is well down the production hierarchy, so you have to learn to be assertive (but tactful). With few exceptions, no-one else on location actually listens to sound objectively. The human brain is remarkably good at rejecting unwanted noise when it suits us, and locations are usually chosen on the basis of how they look, not how they sound. Camera lenses offer 100% rejection of anything out of shot, but microphones don't, no matter how directional you think they are. So donít just accept shooting in a noisy location without exploring the alternatives. Continued - read more...

Matrox RT.X2 PC edting system from ZEN Computer Services
A Matrox RTX2-based editing system with dual 23" LCD PC & TV monitors

Note - all prices quoted on this site are UK pounds - ex VAT

Production Services from DV2Broadcast
Sound Recording, Lighting, Audio Dubbing
Picture Grading, Broadcast Mastering and more...

DV2Broadcast website

Here at ZEN we have successfully used AVG Anti Virus for many years on our PCs, and can definitely recommend it!

AVG Professional Single Edition

What we're about . . .      ZEN is not a traditional Audio-Visual dealer who started selling computers, nor is it a computer shop that also sells video products. You won't get any salesmen giving you the "hard-sell" when you call, just straightforward advice and information - which for some callers is the knowledge that they don't need to buy whatever it is they thought they needed! Above all you'll be dealing with someone with a wide range of experience and knowledge of both PCs and video production. We're not the biggest, nor necessarily the cheapest, but we are one of the longest established computer/video specialists in the UK.

Company history . . .      ZEN was started in the 1980s by Martin Kay, then working for ITV at Granada's Manchester studios, who built his first 6502-based computer in 1979 from an Ohio Scientific kit, bought in the USA whilst working as a Sound Recordist on a film shoot for World In Action. With the advent of the Amiga, which could be gen-locked to a video source, Martin started writing a variety of video-related software. This included subtitling & tele-prompting, ident clocks, scoring software for sports & gameshows, and specialist software to mimic other computer displays for use in TV film dramas like Cracker, Prime Suspect and A Touch of Frost. Martin left Granada in 1993 to concentrate on his computer-video activities with ZEN, following a natural path into non-linear editing systems, for many years the main business activity, although he still maintains an active interest in video production.

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Revised: 09 October, 2018