The Year of Magical Thinking
There’s no sense wallowing in it. Times are tough all over. More than likely, your clients haven’t all dried up and business is decent, if not good. Even if you’ve closed one shop, you’re ready for round two. After all, you’ve still got a lot more content in you and a vision to serve. Work in a bigger facility? Bet you’re doing a whole lot more with a whole lot less following that last round of layoffs. Isn’t it about time you invested (or convinced your boss to invest) in tools that make your life easier?
From the advance details we’ve received from manufacturers about products releasing at NAB 2009, this is a very good year to be upgrading your equipment. Companies know these are tough times and that potentially fewer qualified buyers will be in Las Vegas this year. But those who attend will be rewarded. The initial list prices on many of the options described below are already ground breaking. And many of these hardware and software tools are now shipping and may be available for much less during booth promotions at the show itself. Some of this gear might even give you Q-Branch, MI6 style and 007 cred, from the inflatable in-flight camera bag to kits with Swiss Army knife-like features. Salivating yet? Read on.
Cameras and Gear
There will be no RED tent to tempt you this year, so why not head over to the Central Hall for some one-stop camera tire kicking and shopping? Sony, Panasonic and JVC will all be there, right alongside their many dealers and partners selling everything else for your kit.
Sony, in fact, is taking advantage of the booth vacancies at the show this year by filling up the extra space. Special-themed Sony booths (HD Event Production, CineAlta, HD Live, John Lennon bus, the live theater hall at N109) will anchor Sony’s main 26,000-foot promenade in the Central Hall like satellites in orbit. Overkill? Not at all, says Sony senior vice president Alec Shapiro, who maintains that NAB will always be the most important show for Sony customers worldwide. “We’ve seen this before,” he says. “After 9/11, attendance was down 25%, but all of our key customers still showed up, giving everyone more quality time to spend with the equipment.” Shapiro is, given the dismal economy, realistic. If you can’t get to booth C11001 in person, you can find announcements, video and images once again at a “virtual” booth on Sony’s Web site.
If chip size matters more to you than price, Sony has certainly delivered on its promise of larger imagers for a higher-end result. Now shipping what the company calls Phase 3 of its XDCAM HD technology-2/3-inch chip and full 4:2:2 HD image quality-Sony will continue to expand into all directions of the market. The latest
versions of the XDCAM HD, XDCAM EX, and new releases such as the HVR-Z5U (now with an interchangeable lens) and a hot little POV camera (the HXR-MCI), will be on display in its booths.
Should you bet your business on a top-of-the-line model beyond your means? “We understand that the Ã¢Â€Â˜good enough’ mentality is stronger than ever,” says Shapiro. “You buy maybe not what you really want but what you can.” Shapiro notes that the NIPROS optical fiber adapter, which tricks out the XDCAM EX (PMW-EX3, $13,000 list) into a full studio configuration for under $30K, viewfinder included, is already selling well. B&H Photo and others are also offering
attractive lease options on the package for as little as $856/month.
More product surprises-some 30 in
total for the field, and we expect, for the digital-centric DP in the studio-will come from Sony at the show. Shapiro says customers can expect “price points to meet every budget,” including 4K workflows designed for output on Sony’s SXRD 4K projectors.
Speaking of digital cinema, Silicon Imaging, fresh off the Best Cinematography and Best Picture Oscars for Slumdog
Millionaire, is on a roll. In January, it shipped its 2K Digital Cinema camera system, the SI-2K, featuring 10-bit CineForm RAW and 12-bit uncompressed 2K direct-to-disk recording. This camera’s chip, as you’d expect, is sweetly proportioned: the single 2/3-inch CMOS captures to disk at either 1920x1080P HD or 2048×1152 cinema resolutions. CS4 users rejoice: it’s been honed to work fluidly with Adobe Premiere Pro HD. Find the camera in Band Pro’s booth, C10408.
Last month, Panasonic (C3327, C3712) introduced the AG-HPX300, a real-world camera with a bold and welcome paradigm: 10-bit, 4:2:2 quality for only $10K. How’d they do it? The new 1080i/720p camcorder relies on the company’s AVC-Intra compression to squeeze out every usable bit of data recorded on the 1/3-inch, 2.2-megapixel progressive-scan proprietary “3MOS” imager. This camera brings VariCam technology (Chromatic Aberration Compensation, to reduce artifacts) into a lightweight, should-mount body that also records DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV (yes, they know many of you are still shooting in SD). The company is now offering a studio configuration for the camera for an addition $10K.
We’ve recently talked in these pages about the exciting new thinking that JVC has brought to its latest camera introductions; it’s why we put the new GY-HM700, $7,995.00, with its wider-angle and higher-res Canon lens and optional SxS recorder-camera B to your XDCAM?-on this month’s cover. See for yourself in Booth C4315. While you’re there,
try the tiny GY-HM100U handheld on for size.
There are no details to share at this time about camera updates from Grass Valley (South Hall, SL106). That’s understandable: parent company Thomson recently announced plans to sell the Grass Valley Group. But Jeff Rosica, GV’s senior vice president, assures us that the 50-year-old business is “solid with exciting opportunities for the future” and that there will be plenty of new and innovative GV products at the show. Stay tuned.
As for the smaller and even more affordable camera gadgets, add-ons and enhancements, there will be plenty to choose from at the show. The Vitec Group (C6519, C6517, C6518), in fact, is launching more than 30 new products across its brand platforms at NAB this year. All of these brands, from Sachtler to Oconnor to Petrol, have naturally sought to develop the next indispensable piece of camera gear. Sachtler has launched a full range of FSB heads that work with the energy needs of popular, smaller cameras. “For the first time, you’ll see the entire [FSB] range in one place,” Ali Ahmadi, product marketing manger for Vitec USA, told us. “All models will be able to fit the FSB cell. This is especially useful for new smaller cameras that can do more but also use more energy. It means your camera will last longer and you can shoot for more than 20/30 minutes.”
Vitec also has RED shooters covered, with a special edition of the Artemis camera stabilization, specifically designed for the RED One. RED-heads should also watch out, in particular, for a new Cine7+7 fluid head; more details coming soon.
OK, even if you don’t have the budget to buy a new kit, you need to protect what you already own. With this is mind, Petrol has designed a bag that inflates to protect your camera in an airplane’s overhead bin.
Ahmadi wryly recognizes that one of the primary strengths of Petrol’s products could ultimately hurt the group’s bottom line. “Our products are very rugged,” he says. “They’re designed to be used heavily. And with every new generation we make, they last longer and longer… which is a problem for us!”
Editing and Finishing
In case you haven’t heard, Avid has finally opened up. Thanks to the new Avid Media Access architecture, or AMA, editors can now directly link P2 or XDCAM HD/EX clips from a recorder into an Avid editing bin. The company also recently rewarded DS users with a new simplified ingest and full offline-to-online RED conform workflow. In addition to native XDCAM support comes extra stereoscopic camera support in new versions of Media Composer and Symphony (both versions 3.5). Current users, like the folks at the Discovery Channel Canada and editors of the recent
Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, expect the new workflows to save them mammoth amounts of time. To check out the Avid workflows yourself, visit the company in the South Hall in booth S232LMR.
You’ll likely see the new Apple Mac Pro all over the show floor, just not in an official Apple booth. Apple hardware and software partners, from AJA to Zaxwerks, will be pushing the box’s new Intel Xeon “Nehalem” processors in many different directions. But with a starting price of $2,499, you still have to pay more for the brand.
HP, on the other hand, is ready to offer you another option with its next NAB rollout. Days ago the company announced the Z800, a PC powerhouse that features Xeon quad-core processors, 192GB memory, HD audio, wildly expandable RAID, and “Turbo Boost” technology-all for $1,999. Charlie White will explain what these features add up to in his first-look review of the Z800 in the May digital edition.
Sure, we’d all outfit our studios with the highest-end, five-figure, big, green streaming machine if we could, but why do it if you can find a comparable box for less that works with your output? ViewCast has challenged the streaming price barrier with its new Niagara 2100, a streaming appliance that’s within reach of a moderate-sized facility, priced at just under $4,000.
This new budget-easing appliance maintains many of the qualities that make the other products in the line useful-two USBs and an Ethernet port, the straightforward Niagara SCX interface-while keeping much of the original functionality. The product does lack an SDI input like the Pro II, instead
going with a Component, Y/C and Composite inputs. The 2100 simultaneously streams multiple resolutions at multiple data rates in Windows Media VC-1, which is, of course, Silverlight compatible.
The 2100 gets points for portable design too. Jeff Kopang, ViewCast’s vice president of marketing, had us already with his PowerPoint, but really wowed when he reached into his laptop bag to pull out the bright blue, sleek device. As portable as it seems out of the gate, it also comes equipped with a battery belt for remote applications.
There may be some things on view at the show this year one can only dream about, if not readily afford. Sony’s latest
thin-profile Trimaster BVM-L170 production monitors are seriously engineered and cost considerable coin, but they are definitely worth a look. Saving space, if not money, has to count for something.
Sections: Business Technology
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