NAB 2014 Wrap Up

Posted by Mike McCarthy on April 10th, 2014 filed in Hardware News, Industry Status
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Blackmagic Design had a variety of new products on display at NAB.  The single most interesting one from my perspective is their new film scanner from recently acquired Cintel.  Everything I hear is always “film is dead.”  If that is true, why would anyone be interested in buying a film scanner?  And while we can now scan our own film for $30K, how are we going to get it developed.  The previous process that I am accustomed to, is to send your exposed negative to the lab, and they send you back an HDCam-SR tape, or a stack of DPX files.  Instead, getting the negative back to scan on your own doesn’t seem very appealing.  I imagine that it is aimed at customers who have a lot of existing film on hand, which was processed in the past, that they now want to digitize.  But is there really that big of a market for that?  It will be interesting to see.

Blackmagic Design also announced two new camera designs.  The Studio Camera looks a little unconventional to say the least, with it’s 10″ display, topping their previous entry into that awkward category.  But it seems like it will pair well with their line of ATEM video switchers.  And the feature set they were able to integrate into a single fiber line is quite impressive, including talkback, tally, program feed, and full remote CCU control.  The Micro Four Thirds lens mount seems a bit strange to me, but if it can be adapted as easily as they claim, then it should be accepted.  While I understand why they have both HD and UHD models, it seems like the $1K of added cost for the UHD model would make the HD model obsolete from release date.  And I don’t know where this huge push to 60p came from, but it is all I was getting asked about at the show.  Why wasn’t this such a big deal in 1080p?  But I can see how that feature would be beneficial when these cameras are used in sports telecasts.  But none of the existing switchers will support the 4Kp60 mode yet, so I imagine I know what they will announce at IBC.

Their second new camera is the URSA, with a slightly more traditional form factor.  The URSA is more like a 4K recorder with a replaceable sensor.  This is made apparent by the option to buy the HDMI model, which has no sensor, but is designed to be connected to a DSLR.  The sensor options are Super35 sized EF or PL mounts, or a smaller sensor for broadcast B4 lenses.  The sensors on all of their “4K Cameras” are limited to 3840×2160, and are therefore actually UltraHD instead of true 4K, which is a bit disappointing, and somewhat limiting for eventual 4K DCP deliver.  Regardless of the sensor options, the recorder has three touch-screens, a large 10″ fold out monitor, and 5″ control displays on either side of the body.  It records ProRes or CinemaDNG to dual CFast2.0 card slots.  CFast cards are still hard to find, and surprisingly expensive.  It has the expected SDI, TC, and audio I/O, plus Ref and LANC.  The 12Gb SDI doesn’t go anywhere yet, but I assume they have products that will ingest that in the pipeline.  While most other companies are still on 3G-SDI, is 24Gb on their roadmap for next year?

Red Camera announced a 4K SDI output option for their cameras, which seems years overdue.  Panasonic was showing the Varicam 35, which is a large single sensor imager, and of course supports 4K.  I didn’t see much new at Sony, at least on the high end.  They have so many options on the low end, with XDCAM, EX, NX and a few others that I can’t keep track of what is actually new.  Canon didn’t have any new cameras, but had a new 30-300mm Cinema lens that generated some attention.

HP released their refresh of the Dreamcolor line.  There is a new 24″ model is under $600, but doesn’t include the full feature set.  The new 27″ model is under $1500 for the now popular 2560×1440 resolution.  The good news is that the Dreamcolor Engine 2 is not limited to Progressive RGB inputs, but should work with any source, which was a huge limitation in the past.  I am still looking for a smaller 17″ model, with a 12v power input, to be used on set, or with a laptop.

Anyhow, I am quite happy that my tenth NAB show is behind me.  Nothing at the show really blew me away, but it will be interesting to see what happens with this 4K transition.

NAB 2014 First Look

Posted by Mike McCarthy on April 7th, 2014 filed in Hardware News
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I find myself in Las Vegas once again, attending my tenth NAB convention.  There is no doubt that 4K and UltraHD will be the primary themes this year, with many new products updated to operate at those higher resolutions.  Cameras have actually been available in that range for many years now, as have the software solutions.  The missing pieces have been on the display and delivery side, so that is where I expect to see the most significant advances.

But the single most significant announcement I am aware of, which I anticipate will draw a lot of attention right off the bat, is AJA’s newest product.  They have announced their first camera, shooting directly to ProRES at 4K, dubbed the Cion.  It basically includes all of the established functionality of the existing KiPro Quad, but with its own capture sensor on the front end.  Specifically a natively 4K APS-C sized sensor with a global shutter, and 12 stops of dynamic range.

Visually, Cion’s design looks very similar to the Arri Alexa.  Functionally it seems similar to a C500 with an integrated KiPro Quad.  It will be interesting to see in which segment of the market it eventually most excels in.  It shoots HD, 2K, UHD, and true 4K.  It has an impressive array of framerate options, starting at 24fps at any resolution, up to 30fps at 4K ProRes444, 60fps at ProRes422HQ, and up to 120fps over four RAW 3G BNC data streams.  The RAW data is intended to be ingested by AJA’s existing Corvid Ultra product, for slow motion and selective region of interest playback.  It should be a popular tool for high end sports broadcast productions.  And with a price tag of $9000, it will be popular with a lot of other potential users as well.

Now there is no getting around a comparison with Blackmagic-Design’s line of cameras, originally announced two years ago.  While it is a similar story of a hardware I/O company getting into the camera business, AJA has taken a very different approach.  First off, the Cion form factor wasn’t borrowed from Fisher-Price.  It follows a fairly traditional shoulder mount approach, and should work with existing standard accessories.  I personally prefer the DSLR form factor in many cases, but there is definitely a valid place for larger shoulder mount cameras.  AJA’s offering has a true 4K sensor, instead of one limited to UHD.  The workflow is based on ProRes, and should be similar to BMD’s camera, and familiar to anyone who has used a KiPro.

AJA also announced a number of other new products, including a long overdue update to the Kona line, with the Kona4.  It adds HDMI 2.0b output, on a PCIe x8 2.0 card, but retains the familiar four bi-directional 3G-SDI spigots, and other legacy connectivity.  The io4K was released late last year, and adds 4K support to their Thunderbolt line of “io” products.  The Corvid88 is an OEM PCIe card with 8 bi-directional SDI spigots, allowing 8 channels of HD, 1 channel of 4K at 60p, or anything in between.  The FS1-X adds hardware frame-rate conversion to their line of conversion products, similar to the original Teranex products, but with many more I/O options.  And although I am unfamiliar with it, 64 channels of MADI I/O on the audio side should allow any audio configuration you can dream up.  They also have a new LUT-Box mini-converter for color space conversion of 3G SDI signals.  Stay tuned for more updates to follow as the week progresses.

Need For Speed

Posted by Mike McCarthy on March 12th, 2014 filed in Workflow Ideas
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In my role at Bandito Brothers, I have been working for the last year on the film Need for Speed, which releases in theaters this Friday.  This has been a very different project from our last one, Act of Valor.  Having the backing of a major studio like DreamWorks makes for a totally different production process.  After bootstrapping nearly ever aspect of Act of Valor for four years, Need for Speed has been a much shorter project start to finish.
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Adobe Creative Cloud

Posted by Mike McCarthy on June 20th, 2013 filed in Software News
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Adobe finally released the much advertized “Creative Cloud” version of their applications this week.  The most significant aspect of that change is that significant software updates can be released on a much faster cycle.  The other big change is that instead of buying a permanent license for a specific application, users buy a monthly subscription to access all of Adobe’s software, to be downloaded and installed whenever they need it.  Contrary to what the name implies, the software doesn’t actually get hosted from the cloud, only the installers do.  Similar to previous versions of Creative Suite, owning a single license allows software to be installed on two systems, and anything beyond that will require juggling activations.
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4K Video Over 6G-SDI Connections

Posted by Mike McCarthy on April 21st, 2013 filed in Hardware News, Industry Status
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We began seeing the first products supporting 6G SDI announced at NAB this year.  I heard this was coming, but didn’t fully grasp the significance of it until looking around the show floor.  Hardly anyone is using dual-link 3G connections, presumably for 1080p60 in full RGB, and basically all 4K work is done in RGB, so going from four cables to two isn’t that helpful.  But broadcast applications with QuadHD frame-sizes is where this new technology is going to be key.
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NAB 2013

Posted by Mike McCarthy on April 14th, 2013 filed in Hardware News, Software News
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I just returned from yet another week in Las Vegas for NAB 2013.  I was in the AJA booth again, showing off 4K editing in Premiere Pro, output to a 4K display through the Kona 3G.  Compared to last year, which was basically cuts only, the newer systems are fast enough for full effects to be rendered on the fly.  So I am looking forward to putting that capability to good use in the near future.  AJA also had the KiPro Quad on hand and shipping after last year’s announcement, and few other new products.  I can respect their new policy of not announcing products that are not ready to ship, to combat the trend thoughout the industry for vaporware.  It is nice to know what is coming when planning future projects, but frustrating when it doesn’t arrive when expected.
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New Products from NVidia and Canon

Posted by Mike McCarthy on March 30th, 2013 filed in Hardware News
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It has been a while since I have posted on here, but that is because there haven’t really been any significant developments worth noting.  But there are now a few to summarize before the deluge of NAB announcements.

NVidia has a few new products available.  The Quadro K5000 is now joined by the K4000, K2000, and K600.  Each step down reduces the number of cores by 50%, so the performance should really scale up throughout the lineup now.  In prior generations, the 3800/4000 has been nearly indistinguishable from the the larger 4800/5000 in terms of real world performance.
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New Sony 4K Products

Posted by Mike McCarthy on November 20th, 2012 filed in Hardware News
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It would seem that I missed a few important new hardware announcements while I was traveling in Europe.  As to be expected, most of them revolve around 4K production.

Sony announced two new 4K cameras, both of which have a very modular design.  The PMW-F55 will fit near the top of their lineup, just below the “8K” F65.  It will capture and output up to uncompressed 16bit 4K RAW to an outboard recorders, and record 300Mb XAVC compressed 4K to SxS cards internally.  It can also capture up to 240fps at 2K, or 180fps internally.  The biggest feature that will differentiate it from other 4K cameras is it “global shutter” which should eliminate all potential rolling shutter artifacts that can plague other large single sensor CMOS cameras.  Price estimates vary, but if this camera becomes available at the expected $25-35K price point, it will really shake up the market.
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