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Technology Defined and Refined: What to Expect at the 2017 NAB Show

All signs point to a NAB Show with few major technology reveals, but with plenty of products that will enhance your facility and improve your daily production and post workflows. 3/24/2017 1:30 PM Eastern
An attendee tries Blackmagic’s URSA Mini at last year’s NAB Show. Photo by Al Powers.

Technology revolutions don’t happen every year, as anyone who’s been at the annual NAB Show more than once can attest. Instead of groundbreaking concepts and inventions, some years bring incremental improvements on existing technology and refinements to existing products.

The pace of innovation isn’t constant. While one year might produce an astounding new technology that makes you question whether you should throw out all your old gear and get something better, other years will be more predictable. But it’s actually the predictable years that are the sweet spot for attendees who plan to make equipment purchases at the show. Manufacturers are all eager to demonstrate their products, and nearly all of those offerings are stable and ready to ship.

Some years deliver a sea change while others bring little waves. This year is looking more like the latter, though there will always be a surprise or two. Stereo 3D is all but gone (again), virtual and augmented reality are still looking for wide appeal, and wide/high dynamic range isn’t in great demand yet, though most current hardware and software is ready for it. Although 6K and 8K gear is out there, most producers are still working in HD (and even some SD), while a handful have plateaued for the time being at UHD/4K when a resolution greater than HD is required.

Sony FS7 II with SELP18110G lens

All of this points to an NAB Show with few major technology reveals, but with plenty of products that will enhance your facility and improve your daily production and post workflows.

Even if you are not swept up in a tide of innovation, the NAB Show is the best place to get exposure to the “next big thing” before it even emerges as a trend.

Production

Sony is doubling down on 4K and large sensors for its camera line. The new HDC-4800 camera system combines 4K resolution with enhanced high frame rate capabilities: 8x at 4K and up to 16x in full HD. It uses a new Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor and wide color space and can capture content in high dynamic range. The camera supports PL mount lenses.

In related camera news, Sony’s popular FS7 has gained a sibling in the FS7 II, introduced in December. The new model builds on the FS7’s strengths while incorporating advanced features including Electronic Variable ND technology, a lever lock type E-mount, and an enhanced mechanical design. The SELP18110G Super 35mm kit lens covers Super 35mm and APS-C sensors. The FS7 II also supports Sony’s Alpha Mount System, which includes more than 70 lenses. Sony’s booth will also feature a wide range of OLED and LCD professional monitors, and audio production gear including wireless microphone systems and a high-resolution audio recorder.

Panasonic VariCam LT

For the cine-style videographer, Panasonic has announced new firmware for its existing flagship VariCam 35, LT and HS cameras. This update includes ProRes codecs, HD-SDI monitor output improvements, an iPad app for remote control and more. One of the new Panasonic products to be showcased is the AW-HR140, an outdoor rugged PTZ camera designed for permanent installations and extreme weather conditions. It features full HD 3MOS sensors, an optical 20x plus digital 10x zoom, a water- and dust-resistant case with protection against salt water, and a wiper.

Products targeted at the stadium market include a center-hung LED scoreboard; window augmented reality projection for enhanced suite viewing; LinkRay-equipped LCD displays for wayfinding; digital signage and personalized communications solutions; and new lighting and pro audio products. Also on display will be Panasonic’s Ballooncam, a prototype display system that consists of a drone enclosed in a large balloon that can light up and display information via the onboard LED and projector, as well as shoot dynamic aerial images of sports and other stadium events.

Along with this news, Band Pro Film & Digital, which is also exhibiting at NAB Show, has been named as the official dealer of Panasonic digital cinema products, including the VariCam line.

Matthews Studio Equipment Rover with MicroGrip and suction cup mount

Looking at the smartphone video market, MSE (Matthews Studio Equipment) will introduce Rover, a smartphone camera cage. MSE says that Rover’s one-of-a-kind design allows the handles to become a natural extension of the user’s body. You can test that claim for yourself at the company’s booth. Rover’s handles double as easel arms, perfect for low-angle shooting, tabletop viewing and editing. To ensure flexibility, Rover was designed with 16 points of freedom, which are industry-standard 1/4-20 screw mounts for customizing and accessorizing the rig for any situation. Combined with MSE’s MicroGrip hardware, Rover can be mounted to rails, windows, trees, cars, etc.

Blackmagic Design spans a number of worlds, including production, post and audio, but most of its news leading up to the April trade show has been in the sphere of production. Recent announcements include the URSA Mini Pro camera, HyperDeck Studio Mini recorder, ATEM Television Studio HD and Blackmagic Web Presenter.

The URSA Mini Pro camera sports a hybrid design between a digital cinema and broadcast camera. Built around the 4.6K URSA sensor, it offers 15 stops of dynamic range and three built-in ND filters. It records 12-bit CinemaDNG raw files and/or 10-bit ProRes, from ProRes Proxy up to 4444 XQ. It features interchangeable lens mounts, with EF mount standard. B4, PL and Nikon mounts are expected later in the year. It records to dual CFast 2.0 or dual SD/UHS-II cards, with a piggyback SSD recording module coming mid-year. Base price is $5,995 for the body, which includes a seat of DaVinci Resolve Studio.

Blackmagic Web Presenter

Blackmagic’s HyperDeck Studio Mini is a miniaturized professional deck that records and plays 10-bit video using commonly available SD and UHS-II cards. It features 6G-SDI for working with all SD, HD and Ultra HD formats up to 2160p30, and includes a built-in sync generator and Ethernet for uploading media via FTP. The new ATEM Television Studio HD, which replaces the original ATEM Television Studio, features four 3G-SDI and four HDMI inputs, so customers can connect up to eight different sources, whether they be professional SDI broadcast cameras, consumer HDMI cameras, computers or even video game consoles. ATEM Television Studio HD is compatible with all SD and HD formats up to 1080p60.

Finally, there’s the Blackmagic Web Presenter, which makes any SDI or HDMI video source appear as a 720p USB webcam for higher-quality web streaming using Skype software or streaming platforms such as YouTube Live and Facebook Live. It includes 12G-SDI and HDMI inputs and Teranex-quality downconversion of any SD, HD or Ultra HD video source to 720p for low data rate streaming. In conjunction with the optional Teranex Mini Smart Panel, Blackmagic Web Presenter can live switch programs using its built-in two-input production switcher, making it a live production solution for location broadcast.

Sigma High Speed Zoom 18-35mm_T2

Of course, you can’t have cameras without lenses. Sigma Corp., a leading DSLR lens, camera, flash and accessory manufacturer, will be showcasing its brand new line of Cine lenses, designed for the latest Super 35 and full-frame digital cinema cameras. The Sigma Cine lens lineup includes the High Speed Zoom Line (18-35mm T2 and 50-100mm T2), the FF Zoom Lens (24-35mm T2.2) and the High Speed Prime Line (20mm T1.5, 24mm T1.5, 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5 and 85mm T1.5). Sigma lenses are designed for industry-standard E, EF and PL mounts, ensuring compatibility with all major digital cinema cameras.

Whether you are in production or post, make sure to drop by the Flanders Scientific booth. FSI manufactures some of the most capable professional broadcast monitors in the industry. Of particular interest is the company’s DM series, with matched 17” and 24” models that can ideally be deployed by DITs (17”), editors and colorists (24”) alike. The most advanced models in FSI’s monitor line, the DM displays offer features including a Zero Delay mode, horizontal and vertical image flip, built-in scopes, audio meters, split-screen viewing of two sources, extensive color management controls and a ton more.

Postproduction

Editors, designers and colorists have a vested interest in announcements made by Avid, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk and Blackmagic Design at NAB Show. Much of the action from these companies may well be off the LVCC exhibit floor. Avid is again hosting its Avid Connect user gathering at the Wynn Hotel on the weekend preceding the show’s open. Avid Connect (www.avidconnect2017.com) features new product introductions, partner showcases and professional seminars. For many, but especially Apple Final Cut Pro X users, Post Production World and the SuperMeet (Rio Hotel) are must-see events.

Post Production World keynote speaker Thomas Grove Carter of Trim Editing

Produced in partnership with Future Media Concepts and taking place at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Post Production World features a six-day multitrack program focused on production and postproduction technologies, trends and workflows. Thomas Grove Carter of London-based Trim Editing will speak at the Sunday PPW Keynote and at the SuperMeet on Tuesday evening. Currently showcased on Apple’s Final Cut Pro In Action page, Carter first received acclaim for cutting an innovative interactive Honda commercial, “The Other Side.” During the keynote, Carter will discuss how he uses FCP X at Trim, detail Trim’s edit suite setup, and describe the company’s philosophy of building a lighter-weight facility footprint. His SuperMeet presentation will focus on tips and tricks gleaned from his work editing an Audi commercial and a music video for Ed Sheeran, including how he uses new FCP X sound features (audio lanes) and multicam.

During the SuperMeet on Tuesday, April 25, the Rio’s Pavilion Ballroom will also be a great place to meet various FCP X developers and integrators, including LumaForge, FCPWORKS, FxFactory, Intelligent Assistance and others.

Avid Pro Tools 12.7

For Avid Technology the story will be all about Media Composer 8.8, Pro Tools 12.7 and new Avid NEXIS integrated storage engines. Media Composer 8.8 was recently released and is bound to improve Avid’s position as the dominant editing tool on high-end film and television productions—as this year’s Academy Award nominees will attest. At the Oscars, all of this year’s nominees for Best Picture relied on Avid tools. In the Best Film Editing category, all nominated editors cut their films using Avid Media Composer. Avid solutions also figured prominently among sound mixing and sound editing nominees.

The big news in this release of Media Composer is the long-awaited update of the ScriptSync and PhraseFind options. Avid launched enhanced versions of PhraseFind and ScriptSync in February following its agreement to exclusively license Nexidia’s Emmy Award-winning media and entertainment technologies and solutions. PhraseFind automatically analyzes all clips in a project and phonetically indexes all audible dialogue so that it becomes searchable. This enables users to quickly find all relevant clips by simply typing a word or phrase. ScriptSync will sync indexed dialogue for each source clip to its associated line in the script. Users can quickly locate all relevant clips based on scene number, page number, or word or phrase search. These two options are essential tools for many feature film and documentary editors.

Pro Tools 12.7 features new music creation workflows and collaboration improvements for audio professionals. It includes Soundbase, which improves searching and creative exploration of loop and sound effect libraries, a 2 GB high-quality sample library from Loopmasters, and Revision History, which organizes the multiple versions of projects, audio and video files, notes and other data in the cloud.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC

AdobeCreative Cloud 2017, released last November, will make its NAB Show debut in April. Adobe will showcase Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, Character Animator, Adobe Stock and Adobe Primetime. According to Adobe, new tools for graphics and titling, polishing audio, refining color and sharing assets will be announced.

Adobe will invite marquee customers and product experts to its NAB Show booth to discuss their use of the Creative Cloud application suite. Though the 2017 lineup has not yet been announced, last year’s schedule included four full days of presentations from high-profile film, television, commercials and interactive content creators.

Autodesk will spotlight the Flame Family 2018 software for interactive 3D visual effects, finishing, compositing, advanced graphics, color grading, conform, editorial and look development. The new release boasts improved Shotgun Review & Approval system integration, paint and connected conform workflow enhancements, improvements to Lustre Reactor for faster GPU-accelerated image processing, UI advancements and more. The latest versions of 3ds Max, Arnold, Maya and Shotgun will also be showcased.

Avid NEXIS

Postproduction news out of Blackmagic Design has been relatively light, though colorists have already heard about two new compact control panels from Blackmagic: the DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel ($995) and Mini Panel ($2,995). The panels work with both the free and Studio version of DaVinci Resolve. In other DaVinci news, Resolve Studio is now also available as a software download for Linux. Turnkey systems are no longer required. CentOS and Red Hat Linux are supported.

Storage and Hardware

Avid Technology has retired its ISIS line in favor of the improved NEXIS storage product line. Expect to hear news about NEXIS and Pro Tools at NAB Show. For enterprise customers, check out Avid NEXIS | E5. The hyper-dense storage engine offers real-time editorial collaboration. It provides 40 GbE connectivity and 80 to 480 TB of storage capacity per engine, with the ability to scale up to 1.4 PB of capacity and 9.6 GB/s of bandwidth. NEXIS products are also available for smaller customers, with cost-effective packages that include a bundle with Axle Video asset management software.

Facilis Technology will introduce version 7.0 of its TerraBlock shared storage system and will showcase technology enhancements delivering significant performance gains for both new and installed TerraBlock storage networks. Boasting speeds of over 4 GB/s available from a single volume, these systems offer industry-leading capability. Customers will also benefit from enhanced system redundancy and data resiliency, all while receiving near-linear scalability of bandwidth when expanding the network.

EditShare XStream EFS stack

Another enterprise-class storage provider is EditShare, whose flagship XStream EFS storage platform will be the focus of its NAB Show presence. According to EditShare, XStream EFS is the first storage system to allow users to dynamically define the combination of storage technology (HHD/SSD) and file protection that is applied to media and project spaces. This new capability allows users to optimize storage technology and file protection for each step in their postproduction workflow, all on a single storage platform with a single media namespace.

Last year 1 Beyond introduced EzPetaSAN, a multi-petabyte storage solution that allows multiple users to simultaneously edit 4K, 8K and higher video formats directly from the storage. NASA was their first customer. Built from EZPetaBlk storage blocks of 60 or 90 disks plus the EZPetaHub, this storage solution can expand to 22 petabytes. EzPetaSAN Lite now brings the same performance to those with lesser storage requirements. It includes 64 TB of storage as a starting configuration. EZPetaBlks of 16 disks (4, 6, 8 or 10 TB/disk) can be added for increments of 64 to 160 TB.

1 Beyond has also been at the forefront of introducing LTO (Linear Tape Open) archiving solutions to the media and entertainment market. All of 1 Beyond’s LTO products use LTFS (Linear Tape File System). The company now offers the ThunderTape 3 external LTO tape drive for use with the latest Macs with Thunderbolt 3 ports. It supports popular archiving and asset management software like YoYottaID, Imagine Products PreRoll Post, Axle and Square Box Systems CatDV for archive and on-set backup. Video can be backed up to LTO-7 (6 TB, 300 MB/s) for less than $5,000.

Sonnet Echo Express SEL and SE I

The connections and contours of Apple computers aren’t always conducive to high-pressure video production environments. Enter JMR Electronics, with its new line of Mac Mini Workstations in desktop and rackmount configurations. Designed for DIT cart or post facility use, they include front panel connections for USB 3.0, audio I/O and a media card reader. The back panel includes all the other Mac connections. Optionally, the desktop model includes a 9” LCD flip-up monitor that connects via Thunderbolt. An internal Thunderbolt controller and two-slot PCIe expander with an internal 6 Gb/s SAS RAID controller are standard, as well as eight 3.5” hot-swappable disk drive bays to provide up to 64 TB of native disk storage capacity. The rackmount unit features 2.5” SSD drives with a 32 TB native capacity.

Sonnet Technologies is bringing a number of new products with Thunderbolt 3 capability to market, including card readers, breakout boxes and adapters. Sonnet will showcase new Thunderbolt 3 editions of its Echo Express SEL and Echo Express SE I Thunderbolt-to-PCI Express expansion systems. The compact and lightweight SEL and SE I units harness Thunderbolt 3 to enable data transfers up to 2,750 MB/s for both Mac and Windows computers, supporting a variety of high-performance PCIe cards.

Don’t Forget to Check Out ...

Naturally there’s plenty more to see that doesn’t fit in the scope of this quick preview—for example, effects filters and transitions for editors. Boris FX comes to the show with the combined strengths of Boris Continuum Complete, Sapphire and mocha. (Boris FX announced it was acquiring Imagineer Systems, developer of mocha, in December 2014. In September 2016, Boris FX revealed it was acquiring the Sapphire tools and team from GenArts.) The Boris FX product lineup will include a new suite that includes all three packages. Under a new agreement, all Boris FX products will also benefit from Primatte keying technology, thus bringing these advanced keying algorithms to Avid, Apple, Adobe and OFX hosts. Sapphire 11 and BCC 11 will also be announced.

JMR Data Mover

Competition has heated up among file transfer services, with new offerings from Aspera, JMR and MASV. The Aspera High-Speed Transfer Service is offered as an all-inclusive platform hosted on the IBM Cloud with built-in Aspera transfer service and IBM Cloud storage. Files can also seamlessly connect Aspera transfer nodes and storage running on all major third-party cloud providers and storage deployed on customer premises. This setup provides fast, secure and direct transfer of content of any size, over any distance, independent of storage location. A pay-as-you-go option enables customers to take advantage of the power of the Aspera platform with a cost-effective offering that scales with their business.

A different approach to solve the same problem is JMR’s Data Mover. This is a high-speed enterprise-class system that allows users to easily transfer files across networks—locally, across the nation or around the world. A typical deployment would consist of two (or more) Data Mover appliances. Via the user interface on one of the units, the user would select the file or folder to transfer and input the IP address or name of the other appliance. The hybrid software/hardware solution then analyzes and configures the transfer to account for latencies and different file types, sizes and quantities.

Telestream

MASV Rush is a pay-as-you-go web-based file transfer tool. Unlike competing services, MASV uses a simple $0.15 per gigabyte charge without subscriptions or commitments. There are no file size or speed limitations and the company claims significantly faster upload and download times than Signiant, Aspera and others. MASV.io’s booth is in the South Hall Lower.

A particular focus for Telestream is live video streaming. The company will demonstrate its Lightspeed Live Stream and Lightspeed Live Capture applications. Lightspeed Live Stream solves the problem of preparing real-time content for adaptive bit rate (ABR) live event and live linear streaming. Lightspeed Live Capture can independently ingest multiple channels of SD or HD or a single channel of UHD. Telestream addresses the need to stream to social media sites with Wirecast Gear. Featuring Facebook Live as a streaming destination, Wirecast allows users to create and stream high production value broadcasts from their computers to their Facebook timelines with just a few clicks.

As you can see, this year’s NAB Show will offer something for everyone—production or post, enterprise or small customer, hardware or software. See you there!
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