Best in Show: 2012 Digital Video Black Diamond Award Winners
Held every April in Las Vegas, the NAB Show offers an exhibit floor that highlights a wide range of new tools and technologies for our industry. If you’ve ever experienced NAB firsthand, you know that the sheer enormity of it makes it impossible to see everything that’s on display within the Las Vegas Convention Center. Fortunately, Digital Video had a team of media makers, technologists and journalists searching the cavernous halls for the best new products at the show.
Our team was seeking new or significantly improved tools that would be of service and interest to the Digital Video readership, so while there were many other amazing items at the show, the judges selected this year’s Black Diamond honorees for their value to independent production professionals.
What follows are our picks from the 2012 NAB Show.
1 Beyond is offering a universal portable LTO-5 appliance, a cost-effective solution for video professionals who want to archive, review or restore to or from LTO-5 digital tape (using the LTFS file system) on set, in the field or in the studio. The process is automatic, using 1 Beyond’s Wrangler Auto Duplicate and Verify software, and it’s universal, attaching to the host system via standard Ethernet connection.
Creative Suite 6 includes significant updates to Adobe Premiere Pro, with a simplified user interface, adjustment layers and other improvements, as well as new features in After Effects and Photoshop. New to the Production Premium package is Adobe Prelude, which streamlines ingest, logging and media management. Adobe has integrated its acquisition of color grading application SpeedGrade into the CS6 package. This release represents Adobe’s commitment to the professional video market.
This is such a unique business model that our editors felt it was a must-award. With designated upload locations worldwide, the Aframe platform provides a range of services, from free occasional user accounts to $249 per month producer accounts. Essentially users upload content to the Aframe Cloud and Aframe’s servers perform encoding. Storage is secure. Clients can then share and manage their digital assets.
Last year AJA shipped the Ki Pro Mini recorder. The solid-state Ki Pro Quad portable video recorder is only slightly larger than the Mini, but AJA has managed to squeeze an LCD display screen and full Dual Link and 4K capabilities in there. The Quad can be used to record 4K or as a direct pass-through to record 4K on set through computer and 4K capture card such as the AJA Kona 3G. At $3,995, it is the lowest priced Dual Link and 4K device on the market.
We were impressed by this miniature, $249 Thunderbolt device for broadcast monitoring. The bus-powered T-Tap takes 10-bit SD, HD and 2K output from your NLE via Thunderbolt and displays it on your HD/SD-SDI or HDMI monitor. It has the full AJA Control Panel app to output all frame sizes and resolutions that the big-boy AJA cards output.
The L7-C is an LED offering from ARRI that incorporates Fresnel characteristics such as continuous focusability from spot to flood and a smooth, homogenous light field. With its 7” Fresnel-like lens, the L7-C is fully color controllable, from 2,700°K to 10,000°K. The L7-C LED source produces the equivalent of a 750W tungsten light while drawing only 220W. Made with the quality that one would expect from ARRI, we award this product for all of the feature advances it offers.
Avid has released a worthy update to Media Composer. MC6 offers greater speed and editing tools that will be familiar to nonlinear editors making the switch to Avid. Most important, Media Composer’s 64-bit architecture and streamlined user interface let users speed up their workflows. Also considered in this award is Avid’s DNxHD 444, a low-bandwidth codec that delivers full RGB information. Finally, MC6 adds the ability to create sound mixes within the app as well as output to Pro Tools workstations.
This one stole the show. It’s a 2.5K camera for $2,995, with $1,600 worth of software bundled in the package. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera shoots 2.5K video via a sensor sized somewhat between Super 16 and Micro Four Thirds dimensions to onboard SSD or outputs via Thunderbolt to capture device or computer. Has extensive onboard metadata entry capabilities. Offers 13 stops of dynamic range. This could revolutionize digital cinema acquisition.
Already having reduced the price of the Teranex encoder by $70,000, Blackmagic Design now introduces very low-cost processors that include much of the functionality of the high-end Teranex products but at prices from $1,995 to $3,995. Both the 2D and 3D broadcast standards converters can process video from a variety of sources and perform real-time conversions previously available only in the more expensive Teranex line.
Included in this recognition are all three of the cameras in Canon’s Cinema EOS series: the currently shipping EOS C300 and the newly announced EOS C500 and EOS-1D C. Canon put DSLRs on the video production map with the EOS 5D Mark II and now continues that technology leadership by developing cameras based on DSLRs that are true cinema cameras, not simply DSLRs that happen to shoot excellent video. The C500 and 1D C are true 4K cameras designed for cinematic production with price points that make the technology accessible to a wider range of filmmakers.
Carbon advertises this as the lightest jib on the market. As a crane, it can extend to 18 feet. But there’s more. It can also convert to a track dolly. With options including a zero gravity head, low power requirements, carbon fiber construction, and a price starting at $8,950, we award this product on the basis of its versatility. It is all about accessibility—products that are accessible to more users to improve their production values.
All of that data we are acquiring from solid-state devices needs to be stored somewhere. Ciphertex’s robust offering for network attached storage is a 10-bay RAID solution with an amazing throughput of up to 1,000 MB/s and a variety of security options. The Ciphertex 10-bay NAS offers network expansion options that include dual-port 1 GigE and dual-port 10 GigE network expansion cards. Works with Windows, Mac OS and Linux systems with equal ease.
Convergent Design increases recording flexibility with this one. The Gemini RAW recorder, a more powerful version of the Gemini 4:4:4, is capable of recording 2K/4K raw data while simultaneously recording HD-SDI in either full uncompressed or Avid DNxHD. Alternately, it can record two full uncompressed video streams, or up to four using Avid DNxHD. Gemini RAW is certified by ARRI to record ARRIRAW data from the ALEXA camera to internal SSDs. Its built-in high-resolution screen allows monitoring. As a significant extension of an earlier product, the Gemini RAW is worthy of our award.
You probably never thought a follow focus could be an award winner. Think again. The FocusPLUS+ and FocusONE are entirely new concepts in follow focus design. FocusPLUS+ separates the focus marker from the focus wheel and puts it right next to the lens, facing the user, supporting indie shooters who often pull their own focus. At price points of $199 to $249, anyone can own one. Awarded for ingenuity and features for all.
With the release of so many PL-mount cameras, not to mention the great number of PL adapters, it is no wonder that lens manufacturers are expanding their PL lines. Of note is Fujinon’s PL 19-90 Cabrio, which, in addition to providing a fast T2.9 zoom (“variable prime” to many filmmakers), includes a servo zoom powered by the contact mounts of cameras including ARRI and Sony F3. This expands the handheld capabilities of smaller digital cinema cameras.
Sapphire has long been a go-to effects package for broadcast and film users; Sapphire Edge brings Sapphire’s precise effects engine to a collection of looks, visual effects and transitions that can be applied as-is or customized and saved as presets. The value of the package is enhanced by GenArts’ cloud-based FX Central, a clearinghouse for both user-created and manufacturer-created presets. A one-year subscription is included with the software. Subscription includes free presets every month. Sapphire Edge empowers top-quality creativity on a budget—that’s what our editors love to see.
The HP Z1 is a 27” all-in-one computer whose case snaps open without tools for user configuration and upgrades. Add RAM or a hard drive, upgrade the graphics card or add a Blu-ray drive. Powered by quad-core Intel Xeon processors, this professional workstation combines power and economy. And it has one cool case.
It’s a 4K world, and the GY-HMQ10 is the lowest priced 4K camcorder on the market ($5,500). Powered by JVC’s Falconbrid LSI chip for high-speed signal processing and a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor, the GY-HMQ10 records 4K to an H.264 codec internally or externally over HDMI. The GY-HMQ10 is able to output 4K images to a monitor or projection system in real time with virtually no latency. The small form factor belies the imaging capability of the camera. We were impressed with the footage we saw and consider the camera an excellent value.
We were impressed with the quick setup time for this jib with a telescopic arm that can be adjusted by simply turning and adjusting the arm’s lock levers. In addition, the jib can be retracted at both ends. Using the supplied hexagon wrench, the arm can be retracted 30 cm toward the rear of the jib. Various head options exist, making this a highly configurable and portable support device.
These devices were a gem of a find. Manfrotto’s electronic follow focus remote controls for Canon HDSLRs circumvent the need for a physical, hardware interface between the follow focus system and the camera lens; instead, they wire directly into the camera body to use its internal focus control systems. The follow focus remotes are available in Clamp and Pro versions. While the Clamp version attaches to flat surfaces, pipes and tubes, the Pro version is used as one of the hand grips of a Manfrotto SYMPLA shoulder support. Both versions offer photo/video switching, focus knob, rec/stop or photo shutter release, live view on/off, digital zoom, auto focus, focus memory and focus speed limit.
Nikon enters the DSLR video market with two entries: the D4 and D800. The latter, which can shoot full 1080 video, is an APS-C sensor camera with more advanced scene detection features than the D4 and enhanced processing to minimize skew and rolling shutter. Most important is that both the D800 and D4 output clean 1080 HDMI video, enabling the use of external recorders.
OConnor engineers designed the O-Focus Dual Mini as an adjunct to the OConnor O-Box, a mattebox for smaller to mid-sized cameras. Built with the durability and precision common to OConnor products, the O-Focus Dual Mini is a compact, double-sided direct drive follow focus unit optimized for both still and cine-style camera lenses. It features dual wheels with a hard stop feature. Gear ratio is designed to allow for precision focus pulling.
The LH1850 is an 18.5” HD/SD LCD production monitor with 1366 x 768 resolution. With HD/SD-SDI and HDMI connectivity, this monitor offers the ability to apply a 3D LUT. It improves on the resolution and feature set of earlier models in the BT-LH series, adding HD and SD closed caption display, waveform monitor for RGB signals, vectorscope, RS-485 serial remote, low power consumption, and a mercury-free backlit LED panel.
The TruColor HS from PRG is a color-accurate digital soft source whose Remote Phosphor Technology (RPT) aims to eliminate the color-accuracy limitations inherent in LED fixtures; instead of relying on LEDs as the source of illumination, TruColor HS’s independent phosphor panels emit high-quality light when excited by the high-frequency wavelengths from blue LEDs. With interchangeable polycarbonate phosphor panels, the unit delivers 96 CRI at 3,200°K and 90 CRI at 5,200°K. It generates a 160° beam spread.
After years of waiting, SCARLET is here. Having gone through several design and conceptual changes, SCARLET emerges as a 5K camera based on the same chip as the RED EPIC. Its portability, expandability and image quality make it ideal for projects from documentaries and indies to feature films. Even with a heavy complement of accessories, SCARLET is still less than $25K without lenses. We were pleased to see RED take its time to issue the right camera at the right time.
Ace was developed for DSLRs and light cameras weighing less than 8.8 lb. It embodies the construction quality and features typical of Sachtler products. Adjustable drag and counterbalance are just as important with small cameras as with large, and we were impressed at Ace’s implementation of these Sachtler features in a small package.
Positioned as a step above the Sony NEX-FS100, the FS700 adds a multiplicity of features. Among these are ND filters, an ARRI rosette for mounting compatible devices, slow motion at frame rates up to 960 fps, SDI output and, most important, 4K capability. The FS700 is capable of outputting 8-bit 4K video via the 3G SDI port to a device to be announced in the future. The NXCAM line’s E-mount flexibility is designed to accept virtually all SLR and DSLR 35mm lenses via adapter. The new E to Alpha mount adapter is faster and quieter than its predecessor.
Last year we recognized the camera-mounted PIX 240 recorder. This year Sound Devices adds the PIX 260, a rack-mounted recorder that supports all of the video codecs of the PIX 240 and adds 32 tracks of embedded audio. Files from the PIX 260 are ready for direct import into Avid and Final Cut editing environments. Solid-state devices are rapidly replacing tape decks in the production environment, and the PIX 260 promises to find its way into many a studio.
The LVM-074W offers a high-resolution (1024 x 600) 7” LED backlit LCD panel and HD-SDI and HDMI I/Os. Uniquely, its ColorFast Sensor auto-adjusting color temperature system measures LCD panel temperature and adjusts luminance and color automatically so that chroma and luma drift does not occur as temperature varies. All scope functions are built in, and its magnesium internal body frame keeps it lightweight. Focus assist functions round out its hefty feature set.
Others have called the F8 the world’s thinnest Fresnel light. We think so too. The F8’s output at 90W is rated as equivalent to a 650W tungsten fixture. This high-output LED Fresnel is dimmable (0–100%), focusable (16°–70°) and weather resistant. The compact unit (15” x 12.6” x 4.6”) weighs 10.9 lb. 3,200°K and 5,600°K models are available. It can be controlled via DMX or ZyLink wireless. Despite having no fan or liquid cooling, the F8’s design keeps the fixture remarkably cool.