IBC 2019 is the end-of-the-year pro video/digital cinema convention held in Amsterdam.
Whenever we think we have the media cycle down for the announcements of new cameras and gear, it seems as if we get thrown for a loop. This year, the disruptor was IBC 2019. The convention takes place in Amsterdam and over the past few years, it felt as if IBC would have a few new announcements, but usually nothing earth-shattering. It’s strange, NAB in Las Vegas in the spring used to be the big announcement show, but over the past few years, companies seemed to stop placing as much importance on NAB attendance and new product announcements, and it shifted to Cine Gear, which takes place in the late summer in Hollywood. For 2019, IBC was where the action seemed to be with new product announcements.
Camera ChaosWe already published quite detailed stories on the two new camera announcements from IBC: the introductions of the Canon C500 MKII and the Sony PMW-FX9 digital cinema cameras, both hotly awaited follow-ups to already successful cameras, Canon’s C300 MKII and the C200 to an extent, and the FX9 updating and expanding upon Sony’s successful PMW-FS7 MKII and it’s still-in-the-lineup original FS7. The introduction of these cameras somewhat took me by surprise as they both reside in a sort of financial strata that many of us mistook for all but dead. Prior to the announcements of both of these cameras, key players like Canon’s C300 MKII, Sony’s FS7, the Panasonic EVA 1 and recently, the Panasonic Varicam LT had all dropped below $10,000 retail.
Higher-end digital cinema cameras like the RED camera line, the Arri Alexa, Alexa Mini and Amira, as well as last year’s Sony Venice, all sell for well over $25,000. As you can see, prior to IBC 2019, there was a definite “desert” of pro digital cinema cameras that sell between $10,000 and $20,000. The Canon C500 MKII, listing for $15,999, and the Sony PMW-FX9, listing for $10,999, have definitely changed up the marketplace once again. The lower end of the digital cinema market, with mirrorless cameras, still tops out with Panasonic’s S1H at a list price of $4,000.
As we’ve discussed before, the overall market for cameras is shrinking and has been for a while. Personally, I think the massive success of mirrorless cameras for pro video production, sometimes as an A camera but more often with the mirrorless serving as a gimbal, plant camera or in-car B camera, reflects this downward trend in the market. The consumer side of the camera business is making that market look dismal with very low sales, fewer and fewer new models introduced as that market moves to mostly mobile phones for photography and video. The introduction of the new Canon and Sony point to those two manufacturers still feeling that mid-level production is buying, and still needs, new camera technology, which is refreshingly optimistic.
There Were More Than Cameras at IBC 2019
Besides cameras, there were lots of other interesting gear announced at IBC 2019. Here’s a little point-by-point wrap-up of what I think made these announcements significant:
The most interesting audio announcement for me was the introduction of updated Sound Devices Mix Pre recorder/mixers. The originals hadn’t been on the market for that long and from what we’ve heard, have been a pretty big success as far as sales.
Sound Devices added a time code generator to all three models in the lineup (the originals could only read and distribute existing TC) and the addition of 32-bit float support for recordings. This new 32-bit feature essentially makes audio recording almost foolproof. You can record too low of a level sound and because of the incredible clarity and super-low noise floor, you can amplify and increase the volume by a huge degree with no appreciable noise penalty. If you record the signal too hot, likewise, there’s so much dynamic range the recording will often be perfect, even if recorded “too hot.” The new models are the Mix Pre 3 II, Mix Pre 6 II and Mix Pre 10 II.
One of the most interesting new lighting technologies that exhibited at IBC was the Carpetlight LED Fabric-Based Panels. These new LED lights are super lightweight and very flexible when compared to many other flat-panel flexible LED panels. These lights utilize conductive thread instead of wire to drive the bi-color LED bulbs, resulting in a flexible LED panel that’s lighter and much easier to mount than most existing flexible LED panels. While the Carpetlights aren’t inexpensive (U.S. pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but in Europe, the prices range from €1,799 to €14,900 depending on size), the prices do look competitive for pro-level panels when compared to Arri, LitePanels, etc.
Blackmagic Design announced the Video Assist 12G, a monitor/recorder that’s available in two sizes: 7 inch and 5 inch. The new Video Assists feature an all-metal design with a brighter 2,500 nit screen than the now-discontinued Video Assist models. The monitors record to either single (5 inch) or dual hot-swappable (7 inch) SD card slots in a variety of 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes or DNx formats, at frame rates of up to UHD in 60P. Blackmagic’s BRAW codec is also supported with the Canon C300 MkII and Panasonic EVA1.
The Video Assists record to SD cards, but it’s also possible to record direct to a USB SSD drive like the Samsung T5 over a USB-C connector. Since the older Video Assists were discontinued, this market for monitor recorders has pretty much ceded to the Atomos products, which are excellent, but it’s good to see healthy competition from Blackmagic for the same market.
It’s a Wrap
There were, of course, dozens of other new products introduced with a lot of various grip and lighting products debuting, as well as some other new microphones, but overall, IBC 2019 seemed to feature a lot of new technology that continues on from Cine Gear. There was some discussion chatter flying around in the weeks leading up to IBC 2019 that Panasonic might debut a new camera and that Sony might introduce the long-awaited A7 SIII, but neither rumor turned out to have legs. Overall, attendance was decent and the number of new products introduced means that manufacturers are still bullish on the pro video and digital cinema markets, which is encouraging for all of us who are always looking for the best new tools to use in our work.