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Tuesday, 08 May 2012 14:20

Celebrating Innovation at NAB 2012

Written by  Carl Mrozek and James Thompson
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The companies that provide the latest technology and equipment to broadcast and film professionals recently ventured to Las Vegas, Nev. for the 2012 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show — and this year’s event gave attendees plenty to marvel over. The show floors were packed, the sessions informative and educational, and the hottest topic throughout the weeklong event was the industry movement to a 4K workflow.
Director James Cameron and Vince Pace, visionary co-founders of the Cameron-Pace Group, were on hand to discuss 3D technology and showcase their company’s 3D rigs. The Handheld Shadow is the first handheld 5D stereo-camera system, and it uses the proprietary CPG technology to automatically adjust center-stereo alignment and other stereo functions. It gives 5D operators the same freedom of movement as 2D shooters, which makes it a game changer, especially for sports production where most camera positions are pre-established and in short supply. Now 5D cameramen can get as up close as necessary for optimal 3D shots. Its performance will be further enhanced by OMB 1 (one-man band) for full creative stereo control at the camera.

img_6732For 3D camera operators, it’s hard to beat the Meduza Systems’ Titan, one of the few fully integrated 3D cameras at this year’s NAB. Featuring two 1080p CMOS sensors, Titan is capable of both 1080p and 2K resolution as well as frame rates from 24 to 60 fps in 10 bit. It now includes 3ality Technica’s THC motor drive, plug-and-play interface and an integrated system for controlling focus, iris, convergence and IA (interaxial) either with 3ality’s THC hand controller (connected to the camera body) or wirelessly via Bluetooth from an Apple iPad. Meduza also introduced its Delta 4K S3D stereo lenses, a purposely matched pair of 3D lenses for ultra-precision, especially with their motorized focus and iris controls.

In addition to 3D, NAB was alive with innovative technology that will redefine film and broadcast production workflows. The talk of this year’s show is the new Canon EOS C500 with its new CMOS sensor that offers native HD, 2K and 4K output in a compact camera. Attendees were shown visually stunning short films by Cinematographers Shane Hurlbut, ASC and Jeff Cronenweth, ASC that were shot with the EOS C500. The Cinema EOS C500 for EF-mount lenses and Cinema EOS C500 PL for PL-mount lenses are both capable of originating 4K resolution digital-motion imagery with uncompressed RAW output for external recording. Canon also introduced its EOS-1D C digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, which is compact, and lightweight yet delivers high-end video performance at 4K (4096x2160-pixel) or full HD (1920x1080-pixel) resolution. The EOS-1D C is equipped with a full-frame 18.1-megapixel 24x36mm Canon CMOS sensor, and records 8-bit 4:2:2 Motion JPEG img_69634K video to the camera’s CF memory card at 24 fps or full HD 1920x1080 video at selectable frame rates from 24p to 60p.

Another camera that created quite a stir at NAB is Blackmagic Design’s new 2.5K Digital Cinema camera. It boasts a dynamic range of 13 stops, utilizes an open-file format, includes a high-capacity onboard SSD recorder, and has sufficient bandwidth to capture Cinema DNG RAW, ProRes and DNxHD files, among others. It also features a built-in LCD with metadata entry. As an added bonus, it comes bundled with a full-fledged version Blackmagic’s Da Vinci Resolve color-correction software (which sells for around $1K) for achieving a natural film look. The camera comes standard with a Canon EF mount but will also be available with PL and other mounts as well as a range of I/Os, including SDI and Thunderbolt. One drawback is that the camera only operates at 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps — but at under $3K, it’s still a good deal.

RED Digital’s SCARLET-X is a true 4K camera that can also capture 5K, albeit at only 12 fps. However, it can capture RED RAW in 4K at up to 30+ fps, 3K at up to 48 fps, and 2K at up to 60 fps (and, at some point, it may reach 120 fps in 1K mode). The SCARLET-X can also achieve a dynamic range of 18 stops in HDR (high dynamic range) mode, although with HDR maximum frame rates are reduced by half. SCARLET-X records to mini SSD drives ranging from 32–256GB and is available with either an EF or PL mount (it can switch between the two). Its base price (at $9.7K for the brain only) also includes REDCINE for file management/conversion, color correction, and more.

Sony’s new NEX-FS700E camera has a Super 35mm sensor and can capture full 1080p HD at up to 240 fps and up to 960 fps at lower resolutions. It will be capable of capturing as 4K RAW and outputting it via its 3G HD-SDI outputs (once a necessary firmware upgrade is available) and it can achieve ISOs of up to 20000. Its interchangeable E-mount lens system utilizes an extremely short flange back distance, permitting the use of a broad array of lenses via adaptors and considerably expanding its creative options. And Sony’s A-mount lens adaptor allows the use of a wide range of high-quality alpha lenses that include auto focus. At under $10K, the NEX-FS700E is also switchable between 50 and 60Hz, and it can store up to 99 camera-profile settings and share them with other NEX cameras for multi-camera matching.

img_6914News-content shooters will be happy to learn that JVC has a new compact, portable, high-quality HD camera with a built-in Fujinon wide-angle 23X zoom lens. The JVC GY-HM650 offers GPS and Wi-Fi for remote control, viewing and metadata upload. News stories can be transferred via FTP to the station immediately after shooting for instant editing. On the same front, Panasonic revealed its AG-HPX600 P2 HD, a new, low-weight (at less than 7 pounds), shoulder-mount camera. It offers 10-bit, 4:2:2 AVC-Intra recording and a new series of microP2 memory cards, which have an SD-card form factor to help control costs. Both the HPX600 and the microP2 card will support AVC-ULTRA, Panasonic’s newest video-compression platform. The camera will ship in the fall at an expected list price of less than $16,000.

In regard to lenses, filmmakers will be pleased with Carl Zeiss’s three new Compact Prime CP.2 Super Speed lenses that offer a fast T1.5 aperture. Available in focal lengths of 35mm, 50mm and 85mm, the lenses offer new opportunities for shooting in low-light conditions. Like other Compact Prime CP.2 lenses, the new Super Speed lenses cover a full-frame sensor format and are equipped with an interchangeable lens-mount system for use with a variety of cameras, ranging from smaller DSLRs to professional cinema cameras. Canon USA introduced four EF Cinema zoom lenses, including wide-angle and telephoto cinema zooms that are available in EF- and PL-mount versions. The lenses give exceptional 4K performance in a compact and lightweight design that can be used for handheld or Steadicam shots. Thales Angénieux showcased two new film and digital-cinema lenses: the Optimo 19.5–94mm 4.7X and Optimo 28–340mm 12X specifically designed for 5K cameras and S35 production. And Fujinon featured the 19–90 T2.9 Cabrio compact zoom, a terrific lightweight PL-mount zoom lens that has a quick-removable zoom handgrip that is great for handheld shoots.

Lighting companies were out in full force at this year’s event. AAdynTech pulled no punches with its ECO Punch Plus, a hyper-beam, Fresnel-style LED light that’s equivalent to a 2000-watt tungsten or 2500-watt HMI. One of the most powerful LED lights at NAB 2012, it runs cool and is fairly compact, sturdy and fully programmable for lighting effects (like lightning strobes) at selectable intervals. Litepanels Inca Lights (Inca 6 and Inca 4) are Fresnel LED lights with an output equivalent to 650 and 300 watts tungsten but with a power draw of only 104 and 39 watts. These are the first high-capacity, Fresnel LED lights to offer a color temperature of 3200K. And Zacuto’s Plasma light offers new lighting technology that delivers high, naturally soft-light output. Its 1x1-foot plasma panel outputs 2,000 lumens of naturally soft light (versus 1,500 lumens for a typical, comparable-sized LED panel), which is reduced when softened.

The AJA Ki Pro Quad is the company’s latest compact, low-power, solid-state video recorder. The high-quality Ki Pro Quad captures ready-to-edit files in many formats, including 4K (4096x2160), Quad HD (3840x2160), 2K (2048x1080) and HD (1920x1080) with 10-bit 4:4:4 and 10-bit 4:2:2 color support. And Convergent Design’s Gemini RAW was the only 4K RAW recorder at NAB. It can also be used for quad-screen viewing of 4K from debayered 4K RAW output and for recording 2K 3D. Moreover, Gemini RAW is extremely compact with a low-power draw. Priced at under $25K, this little black box can compete with the big boys, which are much larger, costlier and less ergonomic for camera operators.

img_1072Camera rigs and support equipment companies and distributors gave NAB attendees demonstrations and hands-on experience. International Supplies showcased Optimos, a Swiss-Army-style, all-in-one slider crane, handheld rig and cart. Sturdy and well crafted, it integrates several camera support functions. The Tiffen Company presented the Merlin, a Steadicam handheld stabilizer system that supports up to 7 pounds and has a quick-release mount that instantly allows users to swap camera connections with any tripod. Weighing less than 12.8 ounces, the Merlin can be used quickly in just about any situation where difficult camera movement is needed, like through crowds or on stairs. And K-Tek’s iPod case and mini-pole iPhone support rig is ultra-compact, smartly designed and portable, transforming an iPhone into a usable production tool in seconds.

In response to the need for greater portability for 3D shoots, P+S Technik presented the “world’s smallest” pro-3D mirror rig. At only 4 kilograms, the new PS-Micro Rig is compatible with micro cameras, like Silicon Imaging’s SI-2K. (However, 3D camcorders offer the most compact, integrated and mobile option in a non-mirror rig.) Also at NAB 2012, the Vinten Vision Head has become a useful tool for camera operators. Part of the Vitec Group, Vinten introduced the new Vision blue5 pan/tilt head and tripod system with its higher carrying capacity of 12.1 to 26.5 pounds. This is ideal for shooters that use larger cameras, as Vinten’s Perfect Balance technology provides easy positioning of the camera at any angle.

Location Sound Corp demonstrated its Timecode Buddy system, which puts the latest circuit design, Wi-Fi connectivity and sleek design into the science of recording and syncing timecode. Timecode Buddy technology allows accurate timecode to be streamed to and captured by MovieRecorder software, which speeds up the editing process and takes the hassle out of shoots requiring inputs from several sources. Matthews Studio Equipment demonstrated its new FloatCam HD-DC slider that supports heavier cameras. Like the FloatCam DC-Slider, it offers a counter-balanced, multi-function, multi-angled camera platform and can become a mini-jib as well as a large tower. The HD-DC Slider will has a rail length of 73 inches (185 cm), tracking length of 63 inches (160 cm), vertical height of 79 inches (200 cm) and maximum load of 70 pounds (32 kg) with rail and fulcrum weight of 50 pounds (23 kg).    

Last year, Blackmagic Design purchased Teranex Systems and condensed a full suite of the company’s high-end digital processing technologies into two compact devices: the Teranex 2D andimg_0869 Teranex 3D processors. Both are rack mountable and, at $1,999 and $3,999, they’re priced at a small fraction of their previous cost ($90K and $100K), making both affordable to smaller production companies and indie producers. The 3D processor simultaneously does real-time SD/HD up-and-down conversion, 2D/3D conversion and standards conversion from 50–60HZ and vice versa. And, after listening to user feedback, Autodesk drastically redesigned its Smoke software that offers powerful, high-end video-editing and visual-effects tool for the Mac. The company also reduced the price to a mere $3,495 to meet the demand of editors and studio owners grappling with limited budgets, complex file management and tight project timelines.

Sony Creative Software introduced a few new products at NAB 2012. Its Vegas Pro 11 is just out, offering GPU-accelerated processing for smoother playback and faster rendering. It also gives broad format support, stereoscopic 3D tools, advanced video-effects processing, DVD/Blu-ray Disc authoring, and powerful audio tools in an NLE. And Divide Frame’s Spectral Layers is an extraordinary audio-editing platform that features extraordinary sound-shaping capabilities combined with a truly unique workflow. Users can explore audio data on a multidimensional spectral display that reveals detailed time and frequencies. The platform will be available for Macs and PCs.

To see more pictures or the NAB 2012 Video in the digital edition Click Here.

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