NAB 2012 Recap – 4K Capture And Super Post Apps Dominate The Show Floor
Last year right after NAB, I converted my office desk to a standing desk in order to train for NAB 2012. A year of standing while working was well worth it because after a grueling three days on the show floor, my feet still feel relatively fresh. (Although I can’t say the same for my brain, which is fried from all of the information I took in.) NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), which took place April 14 – 19, is widely considered the Mecca for camera and post geeks. Typically over 100,000 industry professionals converge on Las Vegas every year to check out the latest gear and software pertaining to content creation.
Roughly seven or eight years ago, thanks to the HDV format, we saw a big transition between standard-def and high-def with virtually every camera company having an HD system coming to the market. Now, even your smartphone shoots 1920×1080 and the new iPad is roughly 2K. This year’s NAB will mark the transition from full HD to 4K.
Canon announced two big cameras at the show – the Cinema EOS C500 and the EOS-1DC – that both have 4K motion capture. The $30,000 C500 is the new RED killer that can capture 10-bit uncompressed RAW data stream with no de-Bayering. Canon also announced a new DSLR – the EOS 1DC – that records 8-bit 422 Motion JPEG 4K video to CF cards. Although it has the same body-style as the 1DX, the 1DC is being promoted more as a video camera. It will set you back $15 grand, which seems a bit steep, especially when you read further down this blog post.
Not to be outdone, RED announced a new sensor they’re calling Dragon that can be installed in your current EPIC and eventually Scarlet-X camera. The sensor, which is slightly larger than the Mysterium-X, will cost $6,000 and capture 6K at 85-fps.
So with these new high-tech cameras outputting 4K RAW, what about the workflow? AJA is releasing the latest in their popular Ki Pro recorder series – the Ki Pro Quad – which supports both RAW and 10-bit 4:4:4 and 10-bit 4:2:2. The RAW signal is output from the camera over SDI to the Ki Pro Quad and then using Thunderbolt™ to transfer to your computer. Convergent Design is releasing the Gemini RAW, which does does live-preview and playback to a 4K monitor. The recorder includes four camera recording/quad-split playback (in HD), AVID DNxHD capture (RGB and YCC), uncompressed RGB 444, stereo 3D, simultaneous recording of RAW/Dailies, and 120fps support (in 2K/HD). At their booth, G-Tech showcased many of their new Thunderbolt solutions and also demonstrated their G Speed eS PRO running 4K DPX playback with DaVinci Resolove at 2000-Mbps.
There were also many 4K (or soon to be 4K) solutions for indie filmmakers. Sony presented their new FS700U, which contains a 4K sensor and can shoot 120- and 240-fps in 16 or 8 second bursts. (At the moment it does not capture 4K footage, but a future firmware upgrade is in the works that will enable the camera to output 4K data over 3G HD-SDI when used with an optional Sony 4K recorder.) The camera will run under $10,000. At half the price of the FS700U, JVC had their new 4K affordable camcorder on display that was announced at CES earlier this year. The GY-HMQ10 delivers real time Quad 4K (3840 x 2160) footage for under $5,000. The only catch is the camera only contains a 1/2″ sensor so low-light performance will not be up to par with typical high-end systems. In my opinion, this camera will be a good low-cost solution for capturing 4K composites.
By now, you’re probably aware of the new Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera. Wait, Blackmagic Design is the company that manufactures all of those converter thingamajigs and capture cards, right? Yes indeed, and the $3,000 camera stole the show with many saying this camera is what the RED Scarlet-X should have been. The specs include a 2.5K image sensor, 13-stops of latitude, a built -in SSD recorder, and 12-bit DNG RAW, as well as compressed file formats. It also comes with an EF-mount, an LCD touchscreen for monitoring and metadata entry and a compact medium format camera body style. Did I mention that it comes with DaVinci Resolve so you can do professional color grading for your RAW files. Perhaps the only negative thing I can say about this camera (on paper) is that it only contains a 4/3″-sized sensor instead of a Super 35 that we’re seeing in most new digital camera systems.
Nobody saw this camera coming and this definitely puts the Australian company on the map in the crowded digital camera market. It sort of reminded me of NAB 2007 when the RED ONE was announced and was the talk of the show. Can’t wait to get my hands on this camera!
There was also big news on the post side over in the South Hall with Autodesk releasing the new version of Smoke, which they are calling Smoke 2013. Priced at only $3,495 (approx. $15,000 previously), the new Smoke is an all-in-one creative workflow that combines track-based editorial, industry-standard editing conventions and proven Autodesk creative tools. The program is now more intuitive for editors, who in recent times, have been asked to perform more complex tasks such as titling, color correction and visual effects.
Adobe CS5.5 was my product of the year last year. This year, they’re releasing an even bigger Creative Suite with CS6 in which they’ve incorporated significant changes (especially to the user interface) to Premiere Pro and After Effects, making them seamless to use together. Also, with the recent purchase of Iridas, which owned high-end finishing application, SpeedGrade, CS6 will be even more revolutionary than 5.5. SpeedGrade was a $20,000 color-correction/finishing software and is now part of the CS6 Production Premium bundle, which also includes Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, Audition, Encore, Illustrator, Flash, Bridge, Media Encoder, Story Plus and Prelude – a new app for organizing on-set production workflow. CS6 just might be 2012′s product of the year!
With the democratization of filmmaking tools continuing to force manufacturers to lower their margins on hardware and software, it’s a win-win situation for indie filmmakers. Regarding the $3,000 Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera, I’m wondering what effect this will have on the sub $20K market (F3, Scarlet-X, C300, etc.)?
We shall see, but let’s first see how the camera performs before anointing a new king of digital cinema cameras.