Could These Products - All Around $20,000 - Change Everything?

Maybe you couldn’t leave the studio this year to attend another NAB in Las Vegas. Or maybe your time for trawling the web has been cut short by one too many new clients. Don’t worry. We’ve summed up the top ten product introductions, and a few genuine happenings, that we think will make NAB resonate for Studio/monthly readers long after the last exhibits were struck down. Which products and workflows are in your future?
1. Seeing RED For the First Time
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months’ or a really punishing deadline- you may have wondered why everyone is making such a fuss about a forward-looking- and futuristic-sounding- prototype camera called RED ONE. We’ve speculated, raved and kvetched here in print and online about what would be unveiled at NAB. What did we see? A camera (in the 3D illustration and balsacam prototype, at least) that makes it abundantly clear that a lens, computer chip and sensor, plus some really cool housing, may be all any filmmaker or videographer really wants or needs to shoot in ultra-high-def cine-style or 60 fps ENG-style, or both. "The idea was to build the camera we always wanted…the one no one has yet built," RED Digital Cinema and Oakley sunglasses founder Jim Jannard told Steve Gibby in an exclusive interview for Studio Daily on April 20 (to read the complete interview, go to The plan from the start, says Jannard, was to make a modular and scalable handheld camcorder for a very long service life. "Ideally, this one camera," priced remarkably at $17,500, "could last somebody for decades." Now there’s a return on investment that really rocks.
Is that why 200 early adopters at NAB and some 50 others since have plunked down $1,000 for a camera they won’t be able to hold in their hands until early next year? Seven years in the making but not finished yet, the first several pre-production models are not expected until the end of the year. Jannard says the target is to begin serious production by early’07. "Some [features] are absolutely deadlocked down, and some things remain open," he adds. "Our intent is to include as much capability as possible, in one camera system. Everybody is getting a snapshot in the middle of the process. But we’ve come a long way in a short amount of time."
They certainly have. During the buzz on message boards and listservs that built prior to NAB, the company published data rates that steadily crept up into unbelievably lofty heights, and encode rates that hovered nice and low. Jannard says that in recent tests, data rates may now be as high as 200+ Mbps on a REDDRIVE and encode rates down as low as 12 Mbps. And for that one low price (though Jannard cautions "prices are subject to change without notice"), the first production models of RED ONE are expected to include a lens mount, sensor, LCD, HD-SDI out (4:2:2) and dual HD-SDI (4:4:4), XLR audio, USB, FireWire, SD card slots, HDMI, DC power in and out, timecode, a battery and charger. Sure, the camera’s proprietary sensor, Mysterium, sounds like yet another show in the Cirque de Soleil franchise, but wait until you hear what it can do: The Super 35, 11-megapixel format will let you shoot, even in low light, at 60 fps in 2540p (yea, 4520 x 2540 pixels). Go down to 2K and you get access to 35mm depth of field. The sensor’s oversize design means you can see more in the viewfinder or monitor outside the recorded area. In 4K, Jannard says that’s about 10 percent more visible image. But he’s a true believer, calling it "a miracle sensor" that gives users more options than they are used to seeing at this price point: output of RAW, 4:4:4, 4:2:2 or RED’s own version of the Wavelet codec. And the diverse set of film and video folks who’ve already ordered this camera are firm believers, too. "For my facility’s regional and corporate commercial needs, there aren’t any cameras out there that satisfy our needs for HD," says Brad Hagen, the owner of Video Resources in Santa Ana, CA and Marlborough, MA. "I’m confident the RED team will exceed needs. For starters, RED isn’t married to another product that they need to protect. It’s refreshing. A true paradigm shift that is necessary in this HD market." Adds Brian Ferguson, a director/cameraman at Roswell, Georgia’s Compass Creative, "The specs as far as resolution and frame rate and the 35mm sensor…outstanding! This camera will bring together the best of both worlds by incorporating the needs of a film camera in a digital format. I really think it fills a niche all of us have been clamoring for." Matt De Jesus, a producer, director and owner of New Horizons Film and Video says he couldn’t wait to get into the RED tent in South Hall. "I’m an early adopter in all sorts of technology and can see trends, and I can see RED’s vision and can’t get on board fast enough, I’m number 18 in line. If they can deliver, they WILL reshape the industry. I believe in Jim. Anyone know the Casio story that put the naysayers to shame?…that’s RED." Torrey Loomis, president of Silverado Systems in Sacramento, sums it up best: "At what it promises at that pricepoint, it’s a no brainer. We’re starting a feature film and already in pre-production but we weren’t thrilled with anything out there. It’s worth waiting 6-8 months to get what we need." For more raves and rants about RED ONE from our staff and contributing editors, visit our NAB blogs at
2. Silicon Imaging (Quietly) Emerges
But wait, there’s another way to shoot ultra-high-def and post your projects with your existing tools. In what senior editor Matt Armstrong called the "Anti-RED marketing campaign," Silicon Imaging flew under the radar in its booth antics (it shared a corner of Adobe’s booth) but showed some impressive test footage, shot in Las Vegas prior to the show. The Israeli company began development in the industrial imaging market and says it was lured into the digital camera business by filmmakers asking for a change. Reports contributing editor Mike Grotticelli, "Silicon Imaging’s proposed single-CMOS-chip camera uses a customized CineForm codec that makes it compatible with Adobe Premiere and lets Premiere users edit raw data from the camera natively. The company said the codec will work in Final Cut Pro as well by the end of the year." And what about users of other NLE systems? That hasn’t worried prospective buyers. There’s already one feature film project on board and a shipping version of the 1920 x 1080p camera, bundled with Adobe Premiere Pro for a list price of $22,000, is expected in a few short months.
3. Avid Opens Up – Finally!
Billed as a "nonlinear workflow engine," Avid Interplay melds asset management, workflow automation and security into one pipeline, a surprisingly open one after all these years of Avid’s tightly controlled environment. So what does it do? The Unity-based system connects teams to a shared-data and media backbone so that everyone in the pipeline can follow a project from the first pitch, through the storyboard and budget, on out to completion, with revisions and comments possible at every step of the way. You can search, archive, view, log, auto-transcode, encode and track multi-resolution proxy files made up of about 100 different media types, as well as non-media types like Excel sheets and Word. If you use a less Avid-centric mix of FCP, Premiere Pro and Avid under one roof, you should also compare Interplay with other open shared editing systems out there, like EditShare (version 4 is coming shortly for $15,000; Avid Interplay is expected to ship sometime this summer, beginning at $18,000.
4. A Mac Laptop That Acts Like a Workstation
The "Intel-inside" special ingredient that Apple is now adding to its laptop line means sleek and light design doesn’t translate into a weak workhorse that can’t handle your FCP (and now Avid Xpress Pro and Media Composer) video projects. The new 2.16 GHz 17-inch MacBook Pro, featuring Intel Core Duo processors, is an Apple laptop really built for the video editor, with speeds Apple claims are five times faster than the PowerBook G4. The new laptop features a 17-inch widescreen 1680 x 1050 LCD display, 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo processor; 1GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, expandable to 2GB; 120GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 5400 rpm, with Sudden Motion Sensor; a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD+R DL/DVD ±RW/CD-RW) optical drive; a PCI Express-based ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256MB GDDR3 memory; DVI-out for external display and built-in Dual Link support for an Apple 30-inch Cinema HD Display; GB Ethernet; built-in AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (and for those who can’t be tethered), three USB 2.0 ports, FireWire and really too much more to mention here. (One more thing: for those that work and play, it’s nice to know that you can also access all your iPhoto and GarageBand files through iLife’06, too). The 2.16 GHz 17-inch MacBook Pro started shipping right after NAB for $2,799.
5. Avid Media Composer – On a Laptop!
You hoped it would happen someday soon, but Media Composer has finally migrated down to a software-only app that’s happy on either a Mac or PC laptop. And when you want to attach the hardware engine (Avid’s Mojo in its many forms, now for both Macs and PCs, or Media Composer Adrenaline and Media Composer Adrenaline with Avid DNxcel), it’s a simple plug-and-play upgrade. On the Mac, Media Composer 2.5 has also gone HD. The software-only version for both PC and Mac lists for $4,995. <
6. Robust DTE Hard-Disk Recording for Field or Studio
The price of P2 cards may be dropping, but they’re still too expensive to make good business sense for most smaller facilities and independent productions. Less expensive direct-to-edit portable hard disks shipping at NAB included Focus Enhancements 80 GB FireStore FS-100 for Panasonic’s HVX200, the FS-4 ProHD for JVC’s ProHD family of camcorders and the FS-C, coming this fall for the Canon XL H1. Shining Technology offered a slightly less expensive yet higher-capacity version (up to 120 GB), CitiDISK HD. For studio recording, the elegant Wafian HR-1, which we’ve been hearing about in tests with the Canon XL H1, JVC GY-HD100 and Sony F900, can record up to 18 hours of 10-bit 1920 x 1080 24p using CineForm’s digital intermediate codec. No on-camera compression, just clean, stable, pixel-packed, 4:2:2 footage comparable to HDCAM D5 (and in some tests, even better). There’s even a chroma-keying mode that preserves all that extra pixel information that your keyer lives and dies for. With a starting price of $15,000, it completes the HD-SDI pipeline oh, so affordably.;;
7. Definitely Not a Flash In the Pan
Grass Valley’s use of the IT-centric REV PRO drives and removable media gained ground, both inside its Infinity cameras (now shipping) but also in certified HP workstations bundled with either EDIUS and NewsEdit XT software. But Grass Valley also announced a new relationship with SanDisk, the original inventor of flash storage cards. The collaboration has produced a broadcast-ready Compact Flash card, the SanDisk Extreme III, that can fit into either of the two Compact Flash slots in the camera. It’s only 8 GB right now, but the two companies think that’s enough to make them a viable alternative to hard disk drives. Think reusable, cheap, off-the-shelf recording for those quick shoots in the field.
8. VideoConferencing Is (At Last) in HD
We knew Sony would be the one to do it first and the one to do it right. The new version of Sony’s IPELA line of videoconferencing systems went HD at NAB with spectacular results. That’s what you get when a top-class optics and media company recasts the stodgy world of videoconferencing in its own image. IPELA’s PCS-HG90 codec supports the H.264 HD video protocol with compression of 1280 x 720 at 30p or 60p, and a network video transfer bandwidth of up to eight Mbps. Though the trained eye could detect the occasional and sometimes annoying delays that result in unnatural, jerky movements, the clarity of the sound and image- and proximity to the person on the other end- is crystal clear. OK, a combined package of PCS-HG90 codec and PCSA-CHG90 camera (pictured on page 32), with HD-SDI out, will set you back more than $20,000 (they cost $25,000 and $11,000, respectively). But far-flung divisions now have another compelling way to fight jet-lag.
9. Support Gear You Can't Live Without
From Fujinon’s dual-purpose wide/long zoom lens to Anton/Bauer’s new ElipZsystem battery and charger ($300 and under), the floor was filled with accessories and support that made any location shooter smile. In addition to price, this gear is designed to work hard and travel well. Lowel Lighting’s new fluorescent lamp and diffusion panel is a case in point: it packs down as flat as a thick sheet of paper.;;
10. The Price Is Right
All of these products, which further blur the lines between mid-range and high-end video production, list for around $20,000 or under (some way under; check with your dealer for the best price). Need we say more?
Written by Beth Marchant, Mike Grotticelli, Steve Gibby, Linda Romanello, Matt Armstrong, Bruce A. Johnson, Will Holloway and Douglas Spotted Eagle