NAB 2011: Looking Bullish
It’s that time of year. My feet are aching, my back is sore, and I’m feeling extremely rundown from the overall atmosphere of Las Vegas. Yes, you guessed it. It’s NAB week. As most of you already know, NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) is the largest electronic media event that covers management and delivery of content across all media platforms (movies, television, Internet, radio, etc.). If you haven’t been, it’s the behemoth of all trade shows and a camera geek’s paradise.
Only two years ago, NAB was on shaky ground with a huge drop off in attendance due to the global economic crisis. If it were not for the Canon 5D Mark II and the industry built around the HD DSLR, the show would have been in big trouble. But thankfully, it appears the worst is behind us and that we’re in the midst of some sort of a recovery. This year, NAB announced that total registered attendance was up from 88,000 last year to almost 93,000 registered attendees this year. This is the second year in a row of an increase of 5,000 people. Also, there were over 1,300 news media attendees, including a number from HDVideoPro.
For the HDVP blog, there is simply way too much news for just one person to cover but I’ll do my best to list a few highlights and themes from the show floor. As some of you will remember, 2010 was all about 3D. This year, there was buzz in a multitude of trends and categories, including affordable DSLR solutions, 4K acquisition and display, LED lighting, Apple’s new Thunderbolt solution and RED. On Monday, James Cameron delivered the opening keynote with 3D guru Vince Pace. Cameron’s message to the audience was his usual “the industry is going to be all 3D” in the coming years. He predicted that 3D, especially in television, was going to be implemented much faster than experts are predicting and we will be seeing wide 3D TV use within the next five years. He also announced that he and Pace were forming an alliance, known as the Cameron Pace Group. CPG’s first alliance is with ARRI, and they are collaborating on a new 3D rig, which will be based on the ALEXA. I think this is a very smart move. Cameron also predicted that television sets would soon drop active-shutter glasses and would instead go with cheaper and recyclable polarized glasses. I also agree with this opinion, although I’m still not sold on 3D in the home, especially with sports. Seeing how Best Buy’s stock price dropped nearly 30% recently due to lack of 3D TV sales, I don’t expect 3D to take over the market until they improve the technology and viewing experience. And since most sports are filmed from a distance, what’s the point? Sports viewing, especially the NFL, usually drives the high-def television set market.
On the trade show floor, Adobe and Avid had a strong presence with the release of version 5.5 of their CS5 Production Premium and Media Composer suites. Even though they’re not part of NAB (or any trade show now), it was interesting that Apple totally stole the show at the Final Cut Pro User Group Network Supermeet. The rumors were strong that the update was going to be announced during NAB and that the new version was going to be “iMovie-like”, which pained more than a few Final Cut Pro editors. Dubbed Final Cut Pro X, the new Final Cut Pro will be offered as a $299 download from the Mac App store sometime in June (Jobs is making good on his promise of killing the distribution of software DVDs). As expected Final Cut X is a 64-bit system with support for full background rendering. The system can also handle 4K resolution, as well as working with nearly every format natively, including HD DSLRs, a big sticking point with the system. Regarding the iMovie rumors, Final Cut Pro X is borrowing some ideas from iMovie ’11, in that it can perform face detection in clips, as well as identify specific framing like wide, medium or close-up shots. We’ll see in the coming months if Final Cut X will be targeted towards professional users or more casual users. We’ll also learn if the $299 price tag is an upgrade for Final Cut Studio users, or an all in one NLE suite.
Sony definitely had the biggest presence of any company on the floor with a number of new products, including 3D solutions, large sensor compact camcorders, and a mind boggling but impressive 4K camera with an 8K image sensor. We’ll be doing a big Sony product releases in the next issue of HDVP.
Here’s a 360-degree view of the Sony F65.
Stay tuned for more NAB coverage.