NAB is for soothsayers, trendsetters and people with roadmaps
Unlucky for some…
by Will Strauss
Prototypes, alpha products, demos and proofs of concept: NAB in Las Vegas is all about future innovation. Will Strauss picks 13 stands that you must visit this year.
With the dust from BVE barely settled, it’s already time to look towards NAB. I know, I know. Don’t shout at me. I didn’t arrange the broadcast industry’s events calendar.
While BVE is a ‘hands-on’ show where you can play with real kit and learn from people who have used it, NAB is for soothsayers, trendsetters and people with ‘roadmaps’. And, for that reason, I love it. So, what can we expect from this year’s show? Here are 13 booths not-to-miss.
This time last year Blackmagic Design rocked the camera world and stole the show at NAB by introducing its Cinema Camera almost out of the blue. Other companies will be hard pressed to replicate that in 2013 but there should be some further excitement if you’re looking for high-resolution acquisition kit. In amongst it will be a new video camera from Canon. Although it has only just released the C100, expect a new shooter that sits happily between the C100 and the C300 in terms of both price and spec and is available in both a PL and EF mount version.
NAB 2013 will bring 8k Super Hi-Vision another step closer to reality. Japanese public broadcaster NHK (who else?) will undoubtedly show footage shot at London 2012. And there’s due to be a demo of real-time, over-the-air transmission and reception of SHV broadcasts, using two UHF television channels. But the real excitement will surround potential production technology. A 120Hz Super Hi-Vision camera, a compact Super Hi-Vision camera suitable for robust mobile use AND a 22.2 multichannel sound production system are all promised.
One company that might not be that familiar but may be worth a look is Kinefinity. A Chinese company, it makes the KineRAW S35, a 2k Super 35mm digital camera that shoots RAW and Cineform compressed RAW and costs less than $10,000 (£6,650). For NAB, before the KineRAW has even started shipping no less, it is preparing to launch a smaller and cheaper version called the Mini S35 that will be have a Super 35mm CMOS Sensor that shoots 2K RAW and cost the remarkably low price of $6k (£4k).
Red Digital Cinema
It doesn’t really take Mystic Meg to predict that Red will be one of the most talked about exhibitors at NAB. Blackmagic Design might have stolen some of its thunder in 2012 but this year it will back in a big way (so I am told). Their stand is next to Blackmagic too so expect lots of posturing. If all goes to plan there should be the chance to see the much-hyped Dragon sensor plus something else that led founder Jim Jannard to proclaim: “NAB 2013 will be historic.” You can make of that what you will.
Another camera company that is always worth going to see is GoPro. Trendy as they come, the maker of wearable ‘action’ cameras has recently received investment from Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that makes Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox game consoles. It has promised to help “scale GoPro into one of the great enabling companies of our time.” I would expect some very big stuff from those guys at NAB in addition to the newest line of HERO3 cameras that are already billed.
Anamorphic lenses for the new breed of digital cinema cameras are going to be all the rage this year. Already announced are Master Anamorphic lenses developed jointly by ARRI and Carl Zeiss for the ALEXA range (with its perfectly suited 4:3 sensor) plus Hawk Vintage ‘74 Anamorphics and Scorpio Anamorphic Primes. In Vegas, Angenieux have promised to introduce an anamorphic zoom. I would expect Cooke to follow suit.
While some of the stuff above is based on whispers, hearsay, conjecture and the blind guess work of internet forums, one thing that is indisputable is that 4k will be everywhere at NAB. Cameras have been with us for a while. Now we’re getting other production equipment. As an example, Snell will show a 4k-capable Kahuna 360 vision mixer. 4k broadcasts may not that be that far away.
Talking of vision mixers, Grass Valley may well be the belle of the ball this year thanks to GV Director, a reinvention of what American’s call a ‘live production switcher’. Taking its inspiration from non-linear editing, this innovation features traditional vision mixer buttons, fader bars etc but is software-based. Stick it in the truck, studio or other live environment and pump out feeds for multiple platforms. That’s the idea anyway.
Traditional hardware capabilities being replaced by software alternatives will be a theme for Pixel Power at NAB too. The British company is unveiling a new file-based rendering tool that will see its Clarity graphics engine made available in a software-only version that runs on standard IT hardware. It is expected that this technology will be popular with producers of IPTV and non-linear television services such VoD.
For Chyron, NAB is all partly about ChyronIP, a real-time HD/SD 2D and 3D character and graphics generator specifically designed for the NewTek TriCaster live production system. This system gives you two HD or SD full-motion channels of Chyron graphics that stream directly into the TriCaster over a network connection. It basically means TriCaster users can have the same sort of high-impact graphics typically seen in high-end sport and entertainment shows.
After some time in the wilderness, the Lightworks NLE is big news again thanks to Editshare’s announcement that it will (eventually) become an open source product. The Linux version will move shortly from being in closed alpha testing to a public beta. The big thing about this development is that, if it works, it proves that software can be created that is operating system independent.
The plug-in maker Red Giant is launching a major new production workflow tool for filmmakers that will, and I quote, “elevate it beyond VFX and colour plug-ins”. I know nothing more. Best pop by their booth.
Media Asset Management is traditionally a pain in the backside. So when a vendor tells you that they’ve got a cheap product that makes it easy you a, take notice, and b, get very skeptical. Fortunately, with Axle, a technology I spotted at BVE, we may have a breakthrough. Axle runs on a Mac Mini and automatically catalogues the media in your storage (SAN or NAS or local) before creating low-bandwidth proxies that users can access from wherever they are via the web. One crucial aspect is that it tracks all of the media without interfering with it. At NAB expect demos of Axle working with Avid Media Composer.
Deluxe Entertainment Services
It’s been a while coming but Deluxe’s private cloud-based HD broadcast playout platform will be on show at NAB. MediaCloud was developed to make it possible for broadcasters, producers or any other content owner to get channels (including ‘pop up’ ones) on air quickly and, at the same time, reduce infrastructure and staffing costs. It will accommodate traditional linear output as well as re-versioning for new media outlets. I would expect, after two years development, that MediaCloud will have been worth the wait.