Who knew the future of digital media involved so much window, er, booth shopping? Of course, educated tire kicking is the main reason everyone shows up at NAB, with many companies and individuals using the show's many product launches to make their buying plans.
If you walk the aisles, it's easy enough to see the prime role of digital technology, from production through distribution. You just may agree that the National Association of Bitcasters might be the more appropriate moniker for today's convention.
Some of the big themes we'll be keeping our eyes on? How about the initial user reactions upon this first complete generation of HDV and HD camcorders from the major vendors? Plenty of us have been waiting: Both Sony and Panasonic state that their latest camcorders have quickly become their hottest-selling camcorder products ever.
NAB 2006 is also the first time three of the major NLE makersAdobe, Apple, and Avidwill go head to head with their all-in-one production suites. We'll be interested to see if Apple and Avid pick up on Adobe's challenge to deliver a highly interactive post process, one that treats separate programs as a complete package for today's format-agnostic digital content creation workflow.
Of course, as the Internet plays an ever-greater role in all of our activities, Internet protocol (IP) gains a place in post as well. We'll expect to see more IP-based storage solutions such as Studio Network Solutions' GlobalSAN, which employs iSCSI commands and Gigabit Ethernet to deliver fast, extensible storage networks that are much easier to set up than those first Fibre Channel SANs.
Even camcorders are jumping on the IP wagon. Thomson's Infinity Digital Media Camcorder, which has a built-in Gigabit Ethernet port for transfers, will also allow interactive control of the camcorder's parameters over the network. Expect to see IP connectivity to turn up in monitors, control panels, and other networkable gear.
While asset management has the potential to be the next big thing, don't expect much to come out of the show. Even though many agree that figuring out smart ways to join databases and content creation together makes great sense, the lack of widely accepted standards and even basic definitions for assets continues to hinder its growth for the DCC crowd. Instead, look for more targeted solutions from companies like ScheduAll, which provides production and operations management software for facilities.
But there's one relatively new standard, MXF (Material eXchange Format), that is starting to bring important changes to production. Sony, Panasonic, Grass Valley, and others are starting to implement MXF in their camcorders to smooth video into post.
Quantum's SDLT 600A data tape system, meanwhile, uses MXF-support to provide a method for economical system backups and even replace HD recording gear to some extent. The 600A combines the accessibility of videotape with the cost-effective performance and reliability of commodity data tape drives. With built-in Gigabit Ethernet capability, this archival device might end sneakernet forever.
With the last analog broadcast signals now set to fade on Feb. 17, 2009, expect to see the checkbooks come out at NAB 2006.
Want to stay up to date on these and all the other tech introductions, buy-outs, and other developments to unfold during the NAB convention? Be sure to visit digitalcontentproducer.com for the latest blogs direct from the Las Vegas show floor.
This year's NAB Post|Production World Conference will feature dozens of training sessions covering the latest tools and techniques for video/film editing, special effects, audio/sound editing, web design, 3D animation, and DVD authoring. (See digitalcontentproducer.com/NAB_2006 for more.)
What it Does:
Integrates advanced 2D and 3D compositing, 3D modeling and animation, DVE, titling, motion tracking, vector paint, Adobe Illustrator file animation, extrusion, and more without too steep a learning curve.
What it Does:
NLE plug-in adds new filters, 16-bit color support, and a new paint engine to its already full package of 2D and 3D compositing, software DVE, 3D extrusion and animation, native vector titling, motion tracking, vector paint, and rotoscoping.
What it Does:
This production and operations management software gains new modules, including Media Connection Services (bi-directional API access for third-party development); Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Interface; and ScheduAll for the Web (provides API Interface and .NET support).
What it Does:
Get cooler-running, lower-power 3200-degree K tungsten-quality light from a new technology that can still use the housing and all the accessories of the Arri Studio 1K Fresnel.
What it Does:
Debut of a fully customizable, multi-format test and measurement console. Users can pick and choose from a list of video and audio options to create their ideal test instrument for any specific purpose.
What it Does:
External device integrates into existing SCSI storage and adds data protection and storage networking. The FastStream 5300 includes two 4Gbps Fibre Channel host interface ports and two Ultra320 SCSI drive interfaces, and can be configured as JBOD or RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.
What it Does:
New “daisy chain” version allows straightforward expandability of 4Gbps Fibre Channel storage without the need for a switch. New versions of MediaVault 4210 and 4110 arrays will offer removable controllers and support for an 8+2 RAID6 configuration.
What it Does:
Camcorder drives now offer native QuickTime HDV support. Files can be used immediately in Apple Final Cut Pro 5 without having to first capture or convert footage.
What it Does:
Compact, industrial/professional portable DVR features an AC/DC power option, records to a removable 2.5in. IDE drive, and can serve as a direct replacement for tape-based recording systems.
What it Does:
Fast and easy teleprompter setup and use is the promise of Vision iScript pan-and-tilt head and platform. A pre-set counterbalance system, for example, is set specifically for the prompter system, reducing wasted time tweaking the setup.
What it Does:
This long-zoom portable offers improved quality for SD shootinglighter weight, smaller size toowith a wide 8.5mm focal length and 20X zoom ratio.
What it Does:
With a wide 6mm focal length, high 13X zoom ratio, and fast servo zoom speed (1.2 seconds, end to end), this new SD lens is lighter and smaller than its predecessor.
What it Does:
The first camcorder to use Avid's DNxHD mastering codec, this shipping version of the three-CMOS device delivers full-raster (1920×1080) HD-resolution imaging. FieldPak2 swappable drives now come in 120GB size, providing more than one hour of HD recording time.
What it Does:
One of the leaders in the move toward creating potent but portable test gear, Hamlet pulls it all together in the handheld Flexiscope. The multi-format, multi-standard device sports a 3.5in. diagonal screen and includes a waveform, vector, audio, and picture monitor.
With the imminent approach of NAB 2006, shooters will see an acceleration of several trendsmost notably the acceptance of HD into virtually every market, along with some form of tapeless acquisition. Be it to optical disc, hard drive, or solid-state memory card, one thing is sure in looking beyond this year's show: The era of videotape is reaching the end of its long-play cassette. Of course, this year's NAB won't completely render obsolete the 50-year-old medium in all applications and niches, but, from this point forward, helically scanned bits will become an increasing rarity. Professional shooters, like everyone else on this runaway IT bus, are careening inexorably toward a more tapeless future.
The Panasonic P2-based AG-HVX200 illustrates the point. Gone are the failed shoots due to condensation or rampant dropouts from conventional videotape. Gone, too, are the limited shelf life of traditional Mylar, the need for long capture sessions, and the $25,000 to $30,000 hardware that go with them. Servers à la Hitachi's new Sinelink Digital Transceiver seriesnot VCRswill be the preferred IT workflow of the future. The Panasonic HVX200 with MXF-based P2 technology is simply reflective of this trend, coupling built-in hosting and dubbing capabilities via FireWire and USB 2.0.
For shooters, the HVX200 is indicative of the flexibility we will enjoy in the future. The camera is capable of recording in 81 different HD and SD modes from 12fps to 60fps, and exhibits a range of capabilities in multiple resolutions that are only possible via a tapeless recording medium
The advent of MXF recording in the Panasonic P2 and Sony XDCAM formats ushers in a new era of efficient data handling and asset management. The array of metadata supported inside the MXF wrapper, from timecode and the shooter's name to voice notes and GPS information, lends itself to a streamlined, efficient workflow as such data is made a permanent part of the clip. Access to the clip can also be monitored and recorded at every stage in a production, so that a shooter looking to assert control later can trace his images through to final output from the NLE and digital intermediate, with information on each person who laid a hand on the scene duly recorded in the MXF metadata.
The MXF revolution is not without its challenges. With the Panasonic factory finally filling its many thousands of backorders, one can look for support from ancillary manufacturers hoping to jump on the HVX/P2 bandwagon. Even as the price of P2 media continues to decline, many of us will be looking at alternative streaming options, such as Focus Enhancements' FireStore FS-100. An actual production model is expected to appear at NAB, if not before. The only question is, will it support native frame rate recordings? Remember, the HVX is analogous to a traditional film camera in this regard, capable of recording actual 12fps to 48fps natively; the output stream of unique frames in Native mode via FireWire not being an actual transmittable video stream.
Besides the FireStore, other HDD recorders such as Specialized Communications' CinePorter and Shining Technology's CitiDISK are also said to be in the works. The CinePorter in particular bears watching if a prototype actually materializes at the show. The unit is said to connect directly to the P2 slot, eliminating the need for an externally tethered HDD. This would be a welcome reprieve, for sure, from a FireWire cable and its notoriously fragile four-pin connector.
The ongoing march to the IT Promised Land is very much evident in Sony's new XDCAM HD camcorder. Bearing the PDW-F330 designation, the camera supports file-based recordings (MXF) to blue-laser disc that can be easily offloaded and integrated into a server-based postproduction environment. In HD mode, the camera uses MPEG-2 4:2:0 compression, an approach similar to that of HDV that yields up to two hours of continuous recording at 18Mbps. Long-form shooters will, therefore, look particularly kindly on the new XDCAM offering. Video can be recorded to disc at 1080i60, 1080i50, 1080p30, 1080p25, and 1080p24, making this camera one of the most versatile units for worldwide applications. DVCAM recording at 25Mbps is also offered for those shooters working in traditional SD.
JVC's corporate communications manager Dave Walton agrees that HD has eclipsed standard definition as the acquisition format of choice. He disagrees, however, as to the relevance of IT-oriented systems such as P2 and XDCAM to documentary and other long-form program shooters. For documentary shooters in particular, he says, videotape will continue, for at least several years more, to play a vital and necessary part of the routine shooter's workflow. At NAB 2006, look for JVC to introduce one or two new camcorders in its ProHD line, including (maybe?) a new model featuring a rear-mounted HDD recorder in the vein of the current GY-DV5100 camcorder.
A key advantage of JVC's HDD approach is extensive integration with the camera viewfinder. In SD models, the FireStore recorder captured original camera files directly into QuickTime, meaning that Final Cut Pro users and others could use original camera footage directly without transcoding or other time-consuming conversion processes.
I've written much in the past year regarding the advent of CMOS imagers in the latest generation prosumer and professional camcorders. Sony's diminutive “notebook” camera, the HVR-A1U, for instance, benefits handsomely from the new CMOS technology. It offers increased-resolution, film-like colorimetry, and very low power consumption. At NAB 2006, look for more implementations of groundbreaking CMOS technology. One example will be the Ikegami HDK-79EX II with a 1080i/720p CMOS imager suitable for most professional applications.
As investment in postproduction “heavy iron” becomes increasingly unnecessary, shooters will want to devote more of their financial resources to the highest-quality image acquisition tools possible. Needless to say, judging from the latest camcorder offerings, the quality of today's image acquisition tools is improving in leaps and bounds, and that would, of course, include the camera's primary optics. In years past, many shooters like myself would carry two expensive lenses on the job: the standard 14X or 18X zoom and a second 5.5mm wide-angle zoom to match.
Now, Fujinon is bringing greater economy and efficiency to the shooter's workload by introducing a versatile new HD ENG/EFP lens that combines a 16X telephoto and ample wide angle (6.3mm) in a single objective. Designed using new technology without expensive aspherics, the 2/3in. lens can focus to as close as 20in. while still retaining a lightweight, compact package.
Canon will also be introducing its own lightweight contender in the long telephoto category, the HJ18ex28B. This new lens is classified as a portable HD zoom, and is said to be, according to the company, “the longest portable HD telephoto lens on the market.” However, most attention at the Canon booth may be on the Digi Super 100X field lens that features an Advanced Focus system to help operators maintain focus even in difficult long lens situations.
That's really the theme for me at this year's NAB. Sure, we'll be admiring and drooling over some impressive new non-camera gear like the latest LCD displays from Panasonic. (I understand the new 26in. BT-LH2600W is to die for.) Still, the real story is the expansion in storytelling capability now available toshooters from new IT-based workflows. For decades, the mechanical and physical limitations of videotape defined what we could shoot, the format, in what resolution, and at what frame rate.
As shooters in this crazy new IT-centric universe, our moment as accomplished visual storytellers has finally arrived. Now it's up to each of us to seize this new workflow and make it our own. See you in Vegas!
— BARRY BRAVERMAN
People are already planning their trips to NAB 2006 and the show is still more than two months away as I write this. In fact, people have been talking about the show since the beginning of the year. Along with the new decks, disk-based recorders, and postproduction-based software that will be announced at the show, expect to see a raft of new camera support equipment. Camera support meaning both supporting the camera (literally), and supporting your production (lighting, audio, etc.).
While every year it seems that HD is here (and it is), we're going to take a look at a few things that are coming down the pike (or that have just been released) that you can get your greasy paws on at the show. While there has been a lot of focus in the last couple of years on small format camera support, most of the following products are all-around performers. These are not always the cheapest solutions, but they are definitely solutions that can work in many different situations with different camera kits and setups.
Glidecam Industries has recently announced the Glidecam V-25. As a user of the Glidecam Smooth Shooter, I'm always excited to see new products from this innovative company. This one looks like a winner, and I know as a company Glidecam doesn't rush to release products until it's ready.
The Glidecam V-25 is a new top-of-the-line, body-mounted professional camera stabilization system designed for cameras up to 25lbs. The vest has complete no-tools adjustments, with tilt adjust for arm angle position. The bridge plate can move up and down and switch for leftor right-handed operators. The arm is dual action, with six titanium springs that will hold a total load of approximately 40lbs. This allows 25lbs. for the camera and 15lbs. for the sled, battery, and LCD setup. The arm includes a 5in. and 10in. arm post. The arm post rotates within two bearings for smooth operation. The sled features drop in dovetail head design, no tools adjustment for front to back and side-to-side movement. The gimbal is ultra smooth with a no-tools locking clamp.
The Glidecam V-25 sled includes the new Glidecam L7-Pro LCD. The telescoping base has three battery plates and can be set up for PAG, V-Lock, and Anton Bauer. (PAG and V-Lock are special orders only.) Two of the battery plates tilt on the back of the sled and one is behind the L7-Pro LCD. The sled is HD ready, with three dedicated video lines to allow for RGB video feed. There are also two 12V power outs on the head and base.
These guys have definitely had a big effect on the industry. The Litepanels Mini system is used both on and off camera and the company is constantly working to provide new heat-free LED lighting solutions. This year we get to work with the LP-1x1, which has been in the works for quite some time.
The new LP-1x1 lighting system is available in three models: 5600°K flood, 5600°K spot, and 3200°K flood. It combines Litepanels' hallmark ultra-efficient LED technology with a sophisticated slim design. An integrated control knob on the back of the unit allows instant dimming from 0 to 100 percent with no shift in color. Silent and heat-free, the lighting system can be positioned comfortably close to a subject's face.
The LP-1x1 is powered via an external 90-260VAC switching adapter, which provides 18VDC to the unit. Equipped with an optional XLR connector power cable, the LP-1x1 can also run off a variety of 9-30VDC sources, including a standard camera battery or car battery. For additional lighting control, a set of six interchangeable slide-in correction and diffusion gel filters is available for both 5600°K and 3200°K models
The original Indie-Dolly was a great product. It was a professional dolly system costing not much more than the glorified skateboard dollies sold online. It allowed smaller production companies and independents to have a high-quality dolly without breaking the bank.
Now, the Indie-Dolly from Indie-Dolly Systems provides a solution that can cover tabletop setups up to full size, operator-on-board tracking shots. Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, the track sports heavy anodizing to keep it from becoming nicked up. Each track-section unfolds within seconds and can easily be leveled or raised to make it suitable for any terrain by shimming or supporting the crossbars.
The Indie-Dolly comes in straight track and curved track configurations and includes two seat supports for quick setup changes, a seat, and a foldable pushbar. The nice part? No tools needed for setup!
While it's a small company you may have not heard about, Zaxcom continues to design and manufacture innovative professional audio equipment for the television and film industries. It looks like this will be an interesting NAB for the company. I'll be at the Zaxcom booth to find out more about the just announced TRX900 and TRX990 digital wireless microphone transceivers.
According to the company, these are the industry's first wireless mics to provide integrated audio recording, IFB receivers, and timecode transmission. These patent-pending features allows you to record up to six hours of audio directly to a Flash memory card and then transfer the WAV files to either a PC or Mac for postproduction.
Key features of the TRX900 and TRX990 include: integrated audio recording (eliminates the need for transmission between a microphone and external recording device); time code transmission (eliminates the bulk and weight of having two separate receivers and a sync box for timecode and video sync); and RF remote control (you can change the parameters of a microphonesuch as mic gain, high-pass filter, or the selected channelfrom up to 200ft. away).
So there's a peek into some of the camera support and audio gear that I'll be checking out on the show floor. Also on my list: Focus Enhancements' FireStore FS-100 and Specialized Communications' CinePorter CP-2 HDD recorder. Both of these portable recording devices will be interesting options for the Panasonic AG-HVX200 HD camera now shipping.
— JEM SCHOFIELD
In the video world, many assess progress not by the calendar year, but from April to April, or more specifically, from NAB to NAB. The past 12 months have seen some significant shifts in the nonlinear market, all of which should prove obvious as you walk through the convention center halls.
For example, last April, HDV was still “on the bubble,” with one legitimate three-CCD HDV camcorder (the Sony HDR-FX1/HVR-Z1U), and sketchy application support, primarily through intermediate formats with all the inherent processor and disk space overhead. This year, with several new high-quality three-CCD HDV camcorders available, including the Canon XL-H1 and JVC GY-HD100 camcorders, native HDV support in all major editing applications, and HD DVD on the immediate horizon, HDV is here to stay, and should be all over NAB.
The last year also saw the “big two” video editors, Apple Final Cut Pro and Avid Xpress Pro, become the “big three” with the addition of Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0. Sure, there is no support for networked workgroups, and the four camera multicam limitation will disqualify Premiere Pro from many high-end shops. But for smaller, more integrated production studios, the Adobe Production Studio is a killer app at a killer price.
Finally, this past year saw significant consolidation, most notably Avid's acquisition of Pinnacle and Thomson's purchase of Canopus. Though in the latter case there appears to be little product overlap, producers who favor the former Pinnacle Liquid family of editors have some questions to ask once they arrive at the Avid booth.
As per tradition, Avid and Apple did not preannounce their NAB plans, so let's look at Adobe, which announced the Adobe Production Studio in January. By now you're familiar with the updated products and the highly integrated interface, but the most interesting NAB storyline will be the extensive suite of add-on hardware and software products, some showing at Adobe's plug-in booth, others in the respective company's booths.
On the hardware front, Adobe has at least four partners with add-in cards providing high-end format compatibility, accelerated rendering and preview, or both. For example, the AJA Xena card provides integrated capture, playback, and print to tape of SD-SDI and HD-SDI uncompressed digital audio and video, with full software deck control.
Both Blackmagic Design and Bluefish444 have announced updated drivers that allow Adobe Production Studio to work with their entire line of uncompressed SD/HD SDI hardware. Blackmagic also announced the DeckLink HD Pro PCIe capture card, a dual link HDTV 4:4:4 12-bit SDI card for Mac and Windows.
Matrox announced support for Adobe Production Studio on the Matrox Axio realtime HD and SD editing platforms, and on a new, lower-cost version, Axio LE, which retails for $4,495. With uncompressed HD and SD editing, support for native HDV and DVCPRO HD, realtime mixing of HD and SD codecs, full support for Premiere's new multicam feature, and accelerated export to MPEG-2 and Flash, the Axio is definitely worth a look for those seeking accelerated SD/HD/HDV production. (For more, see D.W. Leitner's review at digitalcontentproducer.com).
Adobe's plug-in pavilion should be chock-full of software partners, but announcements were slow to firm up. Red Giant Software is showing three new or updated products that should interest film and HD producers. For example, Instant HD 1.0 performs bi-cubic scaling of SD to HD footage, with sharpness and anti-aliasing controls and multiple scaling presets.
Documentary filmmakers and postproduction houses should catch a demo of Film Fix, a set of After Effects plug-ins that restore tears, remove dust and dirt particles, and stabilize film-based video. Operation is reportedly highly automated, and you can spread rendering over multiple networked computers. Finally, Red Giant is also updating its Knoll Light Factory After Effects plug-in to version 2.5, with faster operation, support for Premiere Pro 1.5 and later, Avid AVX systems, and 25 new flare effects.
Apple stayed mum on this round of announcements, but based on previous releases, Final Cut Studio should be running on Intel-based Macs before you land at McCarran International Airport. Whether Apple shows these units at NAB will be an interesting question. The initial Intel-based MacBook Pros are single-processor, dual-core systems. With few pro editing and effects apps running natively on the new processor, we'll have to wait for final news on the real speed up.
Most video developers are working on dual G5 systems, many with dual-core processors, which should prove much faster than the current Intel-based iMacs. Unless Apple has a dual-processor, dual-core Intel system ready to unveil at the show, the Intel-based MacBooks may not have much of a presence. (However, don't rule out a dual-core Intel introductionat least from somebody).
Expect to see the new Kona 3 card from AJA Video in the Apple booth. With a four-lane PCI-Express bus interface, the card supports uncompressed SD and HD formats, with 10-bit conversion to and from HD, and a live hardware keyer, and reportedly 40 percent more processing power than the KONA 2 card.
Avid also held back on its NAB announcements, but look for the newly shipping Symphony Nitris and Media Composer Adrenaline to be displayed prominently in the booth. At the other end of the spectrum, it'll be interesting to see how much bandwidth Avid Liquid Chrome HD gets. In need of an interface redesign, and directly competing with Avid's Xpress line of products, Liquid offers no film-based workflow or project and interface compatibility with Avid's higher end products. Avid reportedly coveted Liquid for its innovative, multiple-format rendering engine, not its interface, which makes you feel like Liquid should be on the endangered species list.
Harris Corporation, which acquired Leitch during the second half of 2005, is making an initial venture into the software-only market with Leitch VelocityX ($1,500). Borrowing a page from Avid's playbook, VelocityX shares the same interface as hardware-based VelocityHD and VelocityQ, providing an inexpensive alternative for field or laptop editing.
Beyond the core NLEs, several additional products rate as “must sees” at the LVCC. For example, Boxx Technologies will debut its Boxx Apexx 4 workstation with four dual-core AMD Opteron processors running Red Hat Linux. With up to 64GB of memory, the unit can process up 2K and 4K film res, but obviously can't run any of our favorite Windows editors. ProMax, which customizes Boxx products for the video editing market, will be on hand with Windows-based video workstations for mere mortals.
Focus Enhancements should be showing native HDV QuickTime support in its FireStore FS-4Pro HD and DR-HD100 hard disk recorders. As with DV25 QuickTime support, this allows Final Cut Pro 5 editors to load HDV files directly into the timeline, rather than capture via FireWire or convert the files to MOV format.
On the audio front, Virtual Katy will show VK2 in the Avid Partner Pavilion. The tool synchronizes Avid video edits with soundtracks in Pro Tools via an EDL or Avid Cut List, eliminating the need for manual synchronization.
SmartSound will show Sonicfire Pro 4, the next generation of its automated music-scoring solution. The new version features “mood mapping,” which lets you change the mix and arrangement of the music score to match the video. For example, when using an orchestra mix, you can duck the music for dialog, reducing the number of instruments and volume; go strings only for a quiet, somber moment; or play the entire orchestra to well up for the finish.
— JAN OZER
Straddled between CES and InfoComm, NAB has never been a major forum for displays. Still, displays are an inevitable and critical part of the production and distribution process and there are always a few companies that bring new products to NAB. In fact, displays could become an increasingly important part of NAB as digital display technologies are more regularly able to match the expectations of the broadcast and production industries' most critical eyes.
LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) is a projection technology that has shown promise in the past, thanks to high native resolutions and three-chip imaging, and it seems to be making a major comeback. After several companies abandoned LCoS plans in 2004 and caused serious doubt about the long-term viability of LCoS, JVC and Canon are both expanding their respective LCoS product lines.
At NAB this year, JVC is expected to show its newest 70in. high-definition D-ILA-based rear projection TV/monitor, the HD-P70R1U. Introduced last fall at CEDIA, this three-chip rear projection TV is designed for high-end home theater and production studios and screening rooms. It has a native 1920×1080 resolution, extensive analog and digital connectivity options, and precise setup controls. JVC also has a 61in. version, the HD-P61R1U, with similar features.
JVC has a new 1920×1080 front projector, the DLA-HD10KU, that's also built for exceptional video quality. A two-piece design makes for potentially more convenient installation by allowing much shorter cabling to other system devices and sources, with just a signal cable running to the projector.
A year ago, Canon made news by introducing another proprietary version of LCoS, AISYS (Aspectual Illumination System), and the first AISYS data projector, REALiS SX50. This year, Canon is expanding its commitment to LCoS technology with three new AISYS models, including one, the REALiS SX60, with a theater video, or Home Cinema, mode for higher contrast.
Both the REALiS SX60 and the REALiS SX6 have native SXGA-plus (1400×1050) resolution and boast the excellent color of three-imaging device LCoS technology. The SX6 is rated at 3500 lumens at a list price of $6,999, and the SX60 2500 lumens at a price of $5,999. The third model, the REALiS X600, is the value-oriented version and will have an XGA native resolution and a $3,999 list price. All three models will be on display at NAB and are expected to ship during the month of May.
Canon has also been working on another technology known as SED, or Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display. As of press time, it was unclear whether Canon would bring its SED technology demonstration to NAB, although it was shown at both CES and the Photo Marketing Association show.
Jointly developed by Canon and Toshiba, SED essentially emulates the electron guns of traditional CRTs with an electron emission panel that is only a few inches thick, like an LCD or plasma panel. The result, at least in the prototype demonstrations, is a fast-response, high-contrast, rich-grayscale-range image that could be ideal for production and editing environments. Of course, the technology is still in prototype stage, and there are serious questions about when and if it can be produced in large volume and at reasonable costs. Nonetheless, if Canon does bring SED to NAB, it would be well worth seeing the five-minute presentation.
If you're looking for projection solutions for today, Christie Digital expects to introduce a new model in the rental and staging Roadster line of three-chip DLP projectors. While final specifications aren't yet available as of press time, expect the new version to be both bright and in a smaller form factor.
Barco is expected to show a wide range of products including new 1920×1080 42in. and 47in. LCD panels; the Network Monitoring System that leverages IP infrastructures for sending high-quality, low-latency video to multiple screens and even different control rooms; a variety of rental and staging products utilizing LED, LCD, projection, and image processing; and Barco's latest business and entertainment projectors.
Sanyo will likely have the most projectors on display at NAB, including many models targeting home theaters, video screening rooms, and video production studios. For example, the native 16:9 PLV-80 has a resolution of 1366×768 and increases brightness (over the previous generation PLV-70) to 3000 ANSI lumens. The smaller PLV-Z4 has a native 1280×720 and features 10-bit processing for more accurate colors and more levels of gray and a twin iris that yields a 7000:1 contrast ratio.
Two of Sanyo's newest data projectors, the PLC-XU83 and PLC-XU86, are both XGA models rated at 2000 and 2500 ANSI lumens respectively. Both include built-in Ethernet wired and 802.11g wireless networking capabilities for remote administration. Sanyo is also expected to show a prototype LCD projector with a native resolution of more than 3.3 million pixels.
Panasonic is expanding its line of LCD production monitors with the new 26in. BT-LH2600W, joining the older 17in. BT-LH1700W. Both are native 16:9, 1366×768 monitors that support 480i/480p up to 1080i and 1080/24p. They feature dual HD-SDI/SDI input with em-bedded audio, as well as a full array of analog video inputs. Selectable color temperature, gamma (including CineGamma for monitoring Panasonic's VariCam), and broadcast-level controls (like waveform, blue only, HV, monochrome, etc.) make these LCD panels comfortable replacements for traditional CRTs, except they occupy a lot smaller footprint.
Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, Panasonic introduced the world's largest plasma, a monstrous 103in. panel, and that will be on display at NAB as well. The supersized display, roughly equivalent to four 50in. panels, boasts a native 1080 resolution (1920×1080) and consistent and uniform discharge to deliver accurate images from the center to every corner of the screen.
Sony has been at the forefront of IP-based video communication for several years, particularly with the IPELA line of conferencing and communications products. Last year, Sony introduced the first HD-capable communications products suitable for live, on-air interactivity.
This year, look for the IPELA line to be expanded with a new higher-quality, HD-capable codec, the PCS-HG90, which will use the H.264 HD standard to compress either 1280 or 720 HD content. That new codec will be combined with a new HD pan-tilt camera, the PCSA-CHG90, to support live or taped content from remote locations.
Sony will also be showing several other display products, including the full line of professional, production-oriented LUMA LCD monitors. And Sony will also be showing the remarkable 4K (4096×2160) SXRD digital cinema projectors.
Fiber optics look to be gaining momentum as an increasingly competitive option offering longer and more efficient cabling infrastructures. Several companies will be showing new fiber solutions this year.
For example, Communications Specialties is expanding its Pure Digital Fiberlink line of fiber transmitter/receivers with several new configurations. The 7250 series will support high-resolution RGB (up to UXGA RGB, as well as 720p and 1080iRGBHV only) and stereo audio over one fiber cable. The 7240 series limits high-resolution RGB to WXGA (as well as 720p and 1080i) with stereo audio and bi-directional Ethernet over one fiber cable. Both support distances of more than 1000ft. in multimode and more than 15 miles in single mode. Communications Specialties will also introduce a fiber I/O expansion card for Pioneer's plasma panels.
Multidyne Video and Fiber Optic Systems has similar UXGA-capable solutions in its RGB-5000 series for video and bi-directional Ethernet, including one for multi-point daisy-chained configurations. Multidyne also has helpful solutions for fiber interfaces to HDMI and USB (four-port USB hub) connections. Telecast Fiber Systems has several fiber interfaces for analog and HD-SDI/SDI video, including for studio and remote cameras and patch bays.
— JEFF SAUER
Even though it's still mostly a war of words between the HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats, the rhetoric has really heated up since last NAB. Now, the next stagedelivering playback hardwarecomes just this month, as consumers can now buy disc-based high-definition video playback technology.
For those who know their video technology history, another VHS vs. Betamax-style war is brewing, with Sony again offering what it says is a better technology while butting up against powerful entrenched interests.
Relative picture quality available from the two formats is open to debate, but it won't be the deciding factor in consumer adoption, if history is a guide. Do consumers care about capacity? Blu-ray DVD has a clear edge here, at 25GB per disc vs. HD-DVD's 15GB. But price plays a big part: The first consumer HD-DVD players from Toshiba are expected to start at $499, while the cheapest Blu-ray machinefrom Samsungprices at $1,000.
The third major factor in the warcontentwill likely become the most important once prices come down across the board and consumer adoption spikes in response. So far three studios (Sony, 20
There is, of course, a wild card at play here: personal computers and gaming consoles. Microsoft's Xbox 360 will get an add-on HD-DVD player soon, and Sony's PlayStation 3 could become the Blu-ray player for the masses. (It certainly looks to be the least expensive at this point, especially if it's priced at around $300 to compete with Xbox 360.)
Many professional producers have been following this story since CES in January, when most first-generation products were introduced. Of course, it will be a long time before a client asks for an HD-DVD or Blu-ray disc as a deliverable. But savvy clients will undoubtedly get high-def disc playback capabilities before longand pros will want to be able show them an HD reel. On the display side, the demand for high-def content and playback is more pressing, as HD-resolution plasmas and LCDs proliferate in public areas.
The manufacturers who serve content producers are certainly stepping up to the plate. On the authoring end, Sonic Solutions was doing demos of HD-DVD and Blu-ray interactive capabilities at last year's NAB. This year, expect to see a new version of Sonic's Scenarist that allows the creation of these interactive featuressuch as the ability to access menus while video plays in the backgroundat the show.
“Just higher picture quality isn't enough for consumers,” says Rolf Hartley, Sonic's general manager for the professional products group. “Hollywood has identified the benefit of additional capabilities such as advanced interactivity that complement the higher quality picture and will further inspire consumers to buy a new high definition player and HD-enabled movies.”
After all, uprezzed SD video looks pretty good on HD screens, and therefore interactive functions are going to be the key to consumer adoption, he says.
Web connectivity becomes more important as home theaters become web portalsand Sonic has experience helping content creators build web interactivity into standard-def DVDs via its eDVD product (now in version 4). Sonic's InterActual will allow studios and authors to let viewers connect to Internet-based content that's created after the release of a DVD title.
What about recordable media? Companies like Imation and Maxell are coming through with both recordable Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs. As for recorders, look for Pioneer's BDR-101A Blu-ray Disc/DVD recorder at the show. Need lots of copies? Disc publishing leader Primera has incorporated this drive into the Bravo XR-Blu Disc Publisher, an automated system that loads up to 50 Blu-ray discs at a time.
— TREVOR BOYER
(As of press time)
20th Century Fox