The things that got me really excited went largely unnoticed, but here’s some of my favorites:
Under tight NDA the night before NAB, a few of us were allowed to preview the Blackmagic goods. I was astonished at what I heard as I held a slim $995 piece of 19″ hardware. The ATEM Television Studio.
It’s an IO device with HDMI and HD-SDI ports. It can replace a traditional HD Mixer/Switcher/Keyer. If you’ve seen the traditional big video mixers with a gazillion lit buttons and T-bars, then you probably are familiar with the broadcast price point of $5-75k.
So where’s the rest of this device? How do you switch, there’s seeming no controls? Well, you could buy the external switcher for $5k. Or you can simply attach the ATEM via ethernet to your computer and switch via a virtual control panel.
Here’s what the app looks like on-screen (click to enlarge):
My friend John Herbert formerly of Reflecmedia and now with Blackmagic recorded a bit of “green screen” from the “studio” at the Reflecmedia booth on the NAB show Central Hall floor. He was then able to feed the footage in and live “key” the footage using the ATEM keyer. By the way, how did he record the footage?
Using another new Blackmagic product announced at the show called the HyperDeck Shuttle. This lil guy is $345 and records Uncompressed QuickTime movies to SSD drives. You simply connect your HDMI or HD-SDI cable into the device and hit “Record”. It’s basically a small HD deck with battery. The built-in battery will last about an hour, the 512GB SSD drives will set you back about $1200 and only record about 50 minutes. So, we then took the footage to the Blackmagic booth and used it as a source via HD-SDI into the IO box- the ATEM keyed it out very well for a live HD keyer. Although there are not as many controls for fine tuning the key like you would find in an $80k Ultimatte, the result was still very nice. I’m excited to try it out in our studio sort of like what we did with the Edirol in this video where I walk into the computer screen using real time chroma key:
I see all kinds of uses for inexpensive real time HD keying, including on the set pre-viz. Now your actors can have a large monitor to see the “world” that they’ll be in. This should make for some more interesting acting and lighting on set.
Where will a $995 HD switcher find a home? I see tons of uses in live sporting events, musical performances, house of worship, live tv/web shows, and live seminars. One more cool feature allows you to record an H.264 movie out of the switcher. Could you imagine finishing a live event and already having the encoded file ready to drop on the server?
Atomos Ninja ProRes recorder
I was able to get the Atomos Ninja before the NAB show and was hoping to be blown away with HDSLR recording. Unfortunately the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D do not have a “clean” output so I went and bought a Panasonic GH2 HDSLR to try out. The GH2 does indeed have an HDMI out with no overlays (superimposed on-screen images), however, the signal’s color isn’t as pristine as it should be and it requires a bit of a process to remove 3:2 pulldown so I wrote the GH2 HDSLR off as well. I have high hopes for a solution, though for now I’d recommend only using it with traditional video cameras. I’m using it with the Sony Z7U and the Panasonic AF100 – both HD cameras with HDMI output.
The beauty of the Ninja is in the workflow. How fast can you go from lens to post? It’s pretty amazing really. It’s kind of like a FireStore if you remember those, they recorded an HDV stream from the FireWire port. Not so with the Ninja, you’re recording up to 220mbps ProRes. Let’s think about that for a second, HDV is 35mbps and ProRes HQ is 220mbps. Do you think that the footage will be any better?
To the average person, not so much, however, being able to edit in the ProRes format with no “Log and Transfer” or “Log and Capture” step is huge. I can shoot, then simply drag the files from the drive into the timeline and start cutting. The Ninja uses standard off the shelf 2.5″ laptop drives. Around $50 for 500GB. At ProRes HQ thats 5 hours! The Ninja kit even includes two batteries so that you can actually record for 7 hours non-stop. Oh, and did I mention that the Ninja also has a 4.3-inch monitor so that you can view your footage as you’re rolling? There is a 1/4-20 thread on top and bottom.
Here you can see the Ninja mounted on our Panasonic AF100 with a Noga arm. Fully loaded with drive and two batteries weighed in at about 1.9lbs.
The Atomos Ninja is available in a kit with 2 Sony style batteries, dual charger, 2 master caddies and a Master Caddy dock. The dock allows you to slide the Master Caddy in and connect to your computer via USB 2.0, USB 3.0, or FireWire 800. Using a $50 Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200 RPM drive, I was able to drag and drop the files into FCP and begin editing immediately. The first thing I noticed is how much zippier the footage feels as opposed to long GOP HDV, and how much further I can push color correction. The acquired color via the HDMI port is 4:2:2, not the lossy 4:1:1 or 4:2:0. So there is less banding and jaggies in gradations.
One thing to note, the drives are not included, only the blank caddies. You must add your own drive. The Ninja is available by itself at $649 or at $999 with the complete kit, including hard case and accessories. Just add drives and an HDMI cable.
More HD Recorders…
Sound Devices, known for their high quality mixers and recorders also announced two new HD Video Field recorders, the PIX 240 and 220. Also being shown on the show floor was the Cinedeck, Convergent Design’s Gemini, Blackmagic’s $345 Hyperdeck Shuttle and FFV’s Sidekick.
Each recorder has it’s unique pluses and minus. For example all of the models mentioned above will handle an HD-SDI source whereas the Atomos Ninja only handles HDMI input. A future model set to release this Summer and dubbed “Samurai” will include HD-SDI at the $1,495 price point. Let’s also not forget the two models which have been out in the field and record to compact flash, the AJA Ki Pro Mini, and the Convergent Design nanoFlash. The Ki Pro Mini has not begun shipping in high quantity and has built up quite the demand. Both the nanoFlash and Ki Pro mini record to Compact Flash cards, whereas most of the new recorders shown at NAB are recording to 2.5″ spinning disk or SSD. You’ll want to weigh in battery/power options and media costs if you’re looking at one of these recorders to breathe new life into your current camera.
LaCie Thunderbolt drives
LaCie showed offer four Thunderbolt enabled “Little Big Disk” drives raided together producing over 700MB/sec throughput. Very impressive, especially as these new file formats push the envelope. You’ll need something like this to edit uncompressed. Being able to take these small drives in the field and edit in a hotel is very cool. I would not take our 8 bay RAID on the road.
Lowel finally stepped into the LED world with two new offerings, the Studio 250 and the Studio 400 with CRI numbers hitting 91. Most of the inexpensive offerings on the market are more around the 87 range and tend to to produce a green tinge on skin tones when viewed on an accurate monitor. Sure you can gel green light with a bit of magenta to correct, but its still off. It’s great to see Lowel finally coming to market with a professional, accurate LED fixture with a true “flood” beam. These are dimmable fixtures offering the highest quality LEDs on the market. The Lowel Studio 250 is in the $1800 range while the Studio 400 is in the $2000-2200 range.
AJA and Matrox IO devices
Matrox announced a $299 Thunderbolt adapter. This adapter allows the Matrox Mini line as well as the AJA IO Express to be hooked up to a Thunderbolt port on the new MacBooks. This summer both companies will be offering native Thunderbolt devices, however, existing customers may be interested in just buying one of these nifty adapters to use with legacy gear. Matrox showed the device working in their booth. I’m sure there are many 15-inch MacBook Pro users that are happy to have IO in the field. I didn’t mind the weight of the 17-inch with the Express34 slot for my IO, however Thunderbolt on all the new Macs is very cool. Now those that want to travel light can still just carry a small computer, and edit with a big HDMI or HD-SDI monitor out in the field or on-site.
The new Compact Primes are simply stunning. These are a filmmaker’s dream. When using the SLR style lenses from most manufacturers, you’ll notice it’s tough to rack focus. The CP.2 lenses make it easy and more “Cine style” by offering the focus control to be spread across a wider spinning range. Instead of having a short distance to spin from say 2 feet to 5 feet, you have a very long spin, thus allowing your focus puller a very finite level of control. The other nice thing is that the CP.2 lenses is that they offer manual aperture without hard “click stops”. I was informed at the show that there is a shop in LA that will take the less expensive line of Zeiss ZE SLR lenses and take out the hard click stops. The Compact Primes are in the $4-6k range each, while the SLR lenses are a bit more affordable in the $700-1000 range.
Manfrotto brought out the new 509HD tripod head, the Photo Movie head, some cool new “snake” arms, LANC zoom controllers, and LED lights. In case you didn’t know, Vitek owns Manfrotto and Litepanels, so these new lights are from the high quality Litepanels designers. The Photo Movie head may work well for those still folks venturing into video for the first time, however, long time videographers will quickly find the unit to be a very lateral flowing device. Unlike the full blown video heads from Manfrotto, this one is tough to perform a smooth “Z” test. It just wants to pan left/right and keep on going.
IKAN showed a new multicolor light called the Multi-K XL. It allows you to dial in any specific color with its RGB controls. There are also six presets between 2800 K – 6500 K. Output power is 1000 watts. Street price $2495. http://ikancorp.com/productInfo.php?id=311#
Matthews demonstrated a new slider they’re calling it the DC Slider.
Marshall demonstrated the V-LCD70XP-HDMIPT 7-inch LCD Monitor with HDMI loop through. This allows a second user the ability to take the signal to another monitor for client, director, focus puller, crew etc. You can view all the features of the Marshall including a video we produced at http://www.lcdracks.com/monitors/v-lcd70xp-hdmipt.html
MXL revealed a tiny shotgun mic called the FR-305 which looked surprisingly similar to the Sennheiser MKE400. We’ll have to see how this one sounds.
Panasonic introduced a new 3D camera AG-3DP1 and also the AG-HPX250 which shoots AVC-Intra 100 to P2 Cards. Read more http://www.panasonic.com/promos/nab/2011/
Sony FS100 and F3
These two cameras seemed to be everywhere on the show floor. That’s the great thing about NAB, being able to get your hands on very pricey equipment that your local reseller may not carry. Especially these two cameras which have the ability to interchange lenses. These two cameras are going to be popular with filmmakers, most all the cameras we saw had the Zeiss Compact Primes on, ready to roll. Some incredible footage was shot in Vegas by Next Level Pictures showing off the shear latitude that the F3 is capable of. It’s a pricey combo, sure, great to know that we’re getting closer and closer to film every year and the price just keep coming down.
Que Audio was on the show floor with their new mini shotgun. Looks like a field friendly design with the small form factor.
One cool NAB tip I learned this year: Wear different shoes each day! If you’re on your feet all day walking for miles, the worn part of the shoe is usually deteriorated because of the constant pressure you’re putting on the sole. Mix ’em up!
Once again, another great show is down in history. Looking forward to NAB 2012!