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NAB 2008 Flashback: DV Blog From NAB

This is the complete text of DV‘s 2008 NAB Blog, complete with all the hopes, promises and vaporware that made the event so memorable. Look for our coverage from the upcoming 2009 NAB Show to begin on April 18.

The DV staff, including editor David E. Williams, managing editor
Douglas Bankston, technical editor Jay Holben, and contributing editor
Ned Soltz will be making daily reports from the NAB Show, highlighting
new tools and technology of interest to the
DV readership.

Contributing Editor Stefan Sargent
THURSDAY, APRIL 17
Phew! I’m whacked and it’s only 1:30. I hurry to get here at 9:45 to go
to the Content Theater for the 3D Stereoscopic sessions. It is packed
but I to find a good seat next to a thick set man. His name tab says,
Cedric.

“Thanks for keeping the seat for me.” I say.
“No problem. You’re from England?”
“Australia, London and now I live in San Francisco.” and you?”
“I work for the government.”
“Making films?”
“No. I just work for the government.”
I
glance down at his badge. He has covered the company name with white
type-out paint. The original man in black is sitting next to me.
“For the government?”
“Yes. I work for the government.”
Silence. He fiddles with his 3D glasses.

The first session is 3D PRIMER. This is given by Phil Streather,
who was the producer of Bugs! 3D. An absolutely un-missable talk with
3D PowerPoint slides and lots of 3D clips. We all watch with our RealD3D glasses. Amazing.

At one point he shows a 3D clip from Starlight Express. Stops
it on an exaggerated 3D effect of a mouse on a steel rod. It¹s pointing
right into my face. The show is being run on a Quantel 3D Pablo post
system.

Phil asks the Quantel Pablo operator to change the Z axis and
the whole steel rod and twitching mouse is magically pulled back
several feet towards to background. Phil explains that the left and
right images were separated by about 8% of screen width, which as far
as our eyes can handle. Pulling it back to 5%, gives less 3D stereo but
is easier on the eyes.

He shows a shot from Bugs! 3D where a left green leaf cuts
the left hand end of frame and loses its Z axis (3D) info. He’s in the
process of showing how it can be made into 3D again when whammy he’s
cut off. No more time!
Shame.

The next session is a dismal panel line up of the great and
famous from the 3D world. Vince Pace is nowhere to be seen nor is 3D
pioneer Lenny Lipton.

It drags on and on. Six or seven panelists. No riser, so I could only see two! Who’s talking, I know not who.

Now, I’m sure that individually each 3D expert would have been great ­ but together, it is a disaster.
“3D is so immersive.”
“3D amplifies reality.”
“I love The Mona Lisa effect of 3D.”
Huh? The Mona Lisa effect? What is he talking about? Bring back Phil and his 3D Bugs! Phil you were great!

One by one, the row in front of me empties. By the end of this
dreary hour, eleven people ­ about two thirds of this row is empty.  My
government friend is still with us. What does he do?

Questions from the audience. Where¹s the audience mike?
Nowhere. Suddenly we are all told to exit left. Hey, I wanted to see
the next session about Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D. But no.
Out we all go.

I wanna go back. I join the new line to go in again. No, that’s
only the half way break in the line. The end of the real line for the
next session is way around the block. It¹s worse than Oakland airport.
I give up.

OK. Where¹s the RED camera? Eventually I find it. Yet another line. I give up again. See the Ultimatte stand.

I do a lot of greenscreen and I’m desperate to see Jay Dunn, the in house AdvantEdgeexpert. Yes, there he is.
“Jay, I can’t add an external matte to AdvantEdge in Final Cut.”
“Yes,
it’s a problem. We’re working with Apple — but they are really
secretive about what they are doing. It’s tough… We are at their
mercy… You know there was a Pro Applications update yesterday that
may have fixed that problem.”
“Yesterday was Sunday.”
“Well whenever. It really is a mystery to us.”
“Jay, you’re the guy in charge and you say ‘it’s a mystery’.”
“Stefan, we have users who can’t get the program to run at all. Then we
have users where everything works, everything –  and users like you
where the external inputs, like background and external key, don’t
work.”
“You can’t track down why one works and one doesn’t?”
“In my office, we have two identical Intel Macs running AdvantEdge. On
my colleagues’ everything works fine, on mine the external inputs don’t
work. It’s a mystery.”
“It’s a mystery,” I repeat.
Life on the bleeding edge.

Dazed and confused, I wander back to RED. Wow! No line. I get
in. See Stuart English. He’s the RED “workflow wizard”. Stuart and I go
back 20 years or more, when he worked for Ampex Systems. We meet each
year at NAB for our 10 to 15 minute chat.

We talk about the 3K $3K Scarlet camera. My first question is
how do you feed a 3K signal into FCP. He laughs. “I guess you’ll have
to convert to a format that FCP handles.”
“So who uses 3K?”
“No-one yet.”
“Does Scarlet actually work?”
“No, but we are confident it will.”
“Taking orders?”
“No.”
“When?”
He laughs. “Don’t know.”
“Deposits?”
He smiles. “Probably not ­ it’s only $3K.”
“Does that include the lens?”
“Yes. It’s a fixed lens.”
“The brochure doesn’t give anything away.”
He nods. “We put out a press release today with more info.’

We spend the next five minutes talking about rolling shutter
problems and ways to overcome them. Stuart says that a lot of cameras
with CMOS chips have badly executed rolling shutters but RED pulls out
the pixel info really fast and that minimizes the problems.

He’s keen for me to see the RED RAY. It’s a 4K RED DISC player that you give to your client to view his 4K movie.
“On what?” I ask.
“On
a Sony 4K projector. There are also a series of outputs where you can
choose the resolution you want. Like 1080p for an LCD or plasma
display.”
“So it’s a burner and a player?”
“No you burn on your PC or Mac using normal DVD-5 or dual play DVDs
blanks and then use this player. It’s only $1,000. Comes out next
year.”

Stuart is whisked away. My head is spinning.

Now to send this Blog to my editor, David Williams. Is there
WiFi internet at NAB? No way. I search the South Hall for WiFi.
Nothing. Search the Central Hall. Nothing. Is this 2008? Isn’t NAB all
about communication?

Oh well to lunch. Again, I’m in line. Get my hot dog and apple
juice – only $12. But where are the sit down tables? Nowhere. We all
stand up eating our highly priced burgers and hot dogs. It’s
uncivilized.

Now time for the restroom. This is true. There is just one
urinal in the South Hall entrance men’s restroom. None in the ladies. A
line of 10 or 12 really desperate men queue up for this single urinal.
Honest, they are out the door waiting.

Madness. No WiFi internet. No sit-down tables for the nearby food concessionary and now only one urinal in the men’s room.

Mission accomplished, I wander back into the crowded South Hall.
At Quantel someone knows me. He used to work at my company, Molinare in
London. “You’re sort of a legend there” he says.  We chat about old
times at Moli and the
new regime at Quantel. I’m invited to a private demo of their 3D
Stereoscopic Pablo system. Come back 2:30 tomorrow. Will do.

I go to the Da-Lite screens stand. Yes, they have a 3D stereo
silver screen for polarized light.  I’ll buy it. 8ft across for less
than $500. A bargain.

Pass the Comprehensive stand. Lots of cables on display. I want
a lockable HDMI cable. The stupid things slip out of my camera all the
time. Lockable HDMI? Blank looks. They think I’m mad. FireWire is even
worse. I use a Sony HD Walkman on location. The firewire cable is
always falling out. Lockable Firewire? More blank looks.

Eventually I track down Mike Schell, the genius behind
Convergent Design. I’ve ordered their Flash XDR recorder and there it
is in real life. At last! I was worried about how I’d mount it on my
camera but seeing it there my worries are over. I can’t mount it — it’s
too big!

Mike to the rescue.”Look at what we have in the pipeline.” The
nanoFlash HD Recorder – a fraction of the size of the Flash XDR – and
it takes HDMI in. It’s 4″ x 4″ x 2″ so will easily fit onto my Sony V1.
It’s cheaper too.

FANTASTIC! Just what I want. Feed the output from my Sony V1U
straight into it. Record on dirt-cheap compact flash cards MPEG2 4:2:2
@ 100Mbs. Drawbacks? Not until Quarter 4 ’08 – and only two flash cards
against four in the XDR.

Mike’s nanoFlash has made my day. Back for a margarita at Circus Circus.

Contributing Editor Ned Soltz
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16
I always wondered the safest way to shoot an extreme close up of an angry cobra. Well, I learned how today with the Innovision
DV Probe. This remarkable add-on lens works with a smaller cameras and
can focus down to half an inch. You also only lose 1/2 a stop. The
front elements of the device are waterproof and with its 45-degree
option, it’s possible just to drag underwater and get a straight-ahead
shot. At $9,000 starting price, it is the only way to go for this kind
of close-up photography.

Dulce Systems, a favorite of mine, will be delivering
their ProDI system. This consists of DiPack — a removable brick of 16
2.5″ drives (typical total capacity of 5 TB) which snaps into a fibre
channel enclosure. This is great for sending, well, Digital
Intermediates, between editors. It’s not yet priced, but Dulce
estimates pricing in the range of $1K per TB.

Over in the plug-in pavillion, Digital Anarchy was demo-ing the yet-to-be released FluidZ. Do go to digitalanarchy.com to check out the amazing range of fx. Here is certainly where a picture would be worth far more than words.

I had a session with Quantum today. I still contend that
ultimately the most cost effective and secure long-term archiving
solution currently available is LTO tape. LTO tape installations are
scalable from simple individual gig ethernet drives to multi-tape
loaders. Quantum is currently involved in a major project with the BBC,
archiving in digital form some 50 years of BBC footage, much of which
has to be acquired from original media. The archive is expected to
consumer 15 PB (that’s pedabytes, gang) and is managed through
Quantum’s StorNext software. But you don’t need to be the BBC to
require archiving solutions in this file-based workflow era. I’ll have
a lot more to say about this in future articles on storage, backup and
archiving.

And finally, I paid a visit to EditShare, which likes to
say that they are about more than storage: they are about collaborative
workflow. EditShare 5 is now updated to version 5.5. With version 5,
EditShare introduced Final Cut Pro project sharing to the Avid-only
solution which
existed through version 4. EditShare is a hardware and software
solution which allows multiple users to share media and projects over a
SAN. They tout themselves as the only third party project to support
sharing of Avid projects and the only product at all to allow Avid
Unity-style project
sharing in Final Cut Pro. At NAB, EditShare introduces three new
products. EditShare Flow is a Media Browser and ingest server with a
database back end allowing ingest of up to 4 HD-SDI streams per server.
A single file can be ingested in up to three different codecs
simultaneously or can be encoded in EditShare’s patent-pending
Universal Media File format.

EditShare Xstream is an ultra-high perfomace SAN which can sustain up to 2000MB/s read and 1500 MB/s write speeds.

And EditShare Ark is a front end for copy, backup, archive and mirror functions.

Now it’s time for an evening carnivorous dining and those all-important NAB parties where the real business takes place: networking between colleagues.

More tomorrow….

Technical Editor Jay
Holben

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16
NAB Day three! (aka “The Home Stretch”).
I picked up where I left off last night in the back-end of center hall.
Center hall is really where most of the stuff was “hiding” that I
wanted to see – the stuff that falls under my forte: cameras, support
systems, grip, lighting – the real production toys!

Right off the bat I ran into Frieder Hochheim, KinoFlo’s creator and
president, who walked me through three new products. One of them I was
instantly familiar with – the Kelvin Tile from Element Labs, which I
talked about yesterday. KinoFlo will now be an official distributor and
– later on – manufacture the fixture as well. This is a great bit of
news as the Kevin Tile is an excellent LED fixture and in Kino’s hands
it’s bound to only get better and better. Next up was the new VisaBeam
600 and finally – a product that really caught my eye – is the Vista
Single. An incredibly versatile fixture that can breakdown easily,
mount easily flush to walls and with a great diffused parabolic
reflector – can throw light at a good distance. Just like Kino’s
classic fixtures, you can easily strip the Vista Single out of its
housing and break it down to the bare bones and get into tight spaces.
Very cool! KinoFlo is in booth C9419 www.kinoflo.com

Bron Kobold has a cool new attachment feature for their DW200
fixture – a bracket and mounting ring to fit the DW200 HMI fixture on
the back of an ETC Source Four and convert the excellent ERS into a
daylight fixture. Booth C9021 www.bron-kobold-usa.com

Frezzi introduced a whole new battery technology – nickel-zinc,
which they attest will be the wave of the future with lighter-weight,
longer lasting, no travel-restrictions power. Their prototype 60
watt-hour HD60EGN battery is available for a look-see, but won’t be
ready until the end of the year. Booth C5023 www.frezzi.com

Cartoni has a brand spanking new fluid head for DV cameras (1-10
pounds) that is pretty slick with two stages of counter-balance and
infinite pan and tilt drag adjustments it’s a very nice head for
smaller cameras. The Status Pro will be available in a few months.
Booth C9428 www.cartoni.com

Rosco has two new VERY cool products. One – which was actually shown
last year at NAB, but is improved this year, is the Litepad – about 1/4
of an inch thick and made in many sizes and three shapes (square,
rectangle and circular) – it’s literally a pad of light. A great twist
on LED fixtures that has so many applications. It gives a good punch
and can be slipped in to the tightest spot (like say, taped to the back
of a headrest in a car to light the person in the back seat?).
Dimmable. Great fixture and they’ve got a kit with 12 fixtures in it
that is very cool. Next up Rosco has the slap-your-head product of the
year. The Rosco View (Variable Intensity and Exposure on Windows).
They’ve uncovered a wide polarizing filter that is available in 56″ x
8′ rolls. You apply this polarizing filter to windows in a location. To
the eye they are of course completely transparent. However, combine
them with a custom Polarizer on the camera and you now have a variable
ND filter on the window that does NOT effect the amount of light in the
location!! You can suddenly instantly ND the windows without any light
loss and instantly balance the light to exterior light all throughout
the day with just a mere turn of the pola on the camera! Seriously –
why didn’t anyone do this before? The system is good enough to block
out almost ALL the light from the windows with 90 degree pola position
and shoot day-for-night without blacking out the set! Incredible. The
Rosco View is NOT cheap – about $700 a roll (so for a big office
location that’s about $700 per window) but the potential time savings
is incredible. The material is about 7 mils thick (regular gel is about
3 mils thick) so if you’re really careful, you can reuse it. VERY, VERY
cool product. Rosco is in booth C8208 www.rosco.com

More exciting toys! Innovision introduces the Innovision DV Probe –
just like their wildly popular film lens, this is a probe that attaches
to DV lenses and allows you to focus from 1/4″ to infinity! With a
straight or 45 degree attachment and submerseability up to 15″ – the
possible shots with this is pretty fantastic. The purchase cost of the
unit is $9,000 – but it will rent for about $150 a day. With
attachments for the Sony HVR-Z1U, HDR-FX1, Panasonic HVX200, Canon XLH1
and others. Innovision is in booth C8124 www.innovision-optics.com

Anton/Bauer has an interesting shoulder mount rig for smaller DV
cameras – the Stasis Flex sits over your shoulder and has a lockable
snake-like articulating arm that adjusts the camera to many different
angles and locks it firmly in place. It’s an interesting idea, although
it didn’t really work all that well for me when I tried it at the show.
It felt too loose on my shoulder and I wound up compensating with my
arm taking on more weight. It might be better if I spent some time
getting used to it – not sure. Anton/Bauer is in booth C5917 www.antonbauer.com

DSC Labs has a VERY cool new product – a book! Put together
by Michael Kent, the book is specifically designed for film and video
students and features 12 articles from professionals on a multitude of
subjects along with FOUR of the DSC labs charts included in the book
that are useable and instructions on what the charts are, how to use
them and what they mean! This is an excellent tool and one I’ll be
doing a more indepth review on in the near future. DSC Labs is in booth
C5512 www.dsclabs.com

Technical Editor Jay
Holben

TUESDAY, APRIL 15
TAX DAY! Did y’all pay The Man? Following my plan, I spent the morning
roaming through the lower portion of South Hall, which primarily covers
post-production and display systems. Having success with my
back-forwards approach from yesterday, I started in the far back corner
again this morning and made my way to the front entrance. There are a
lot of booths that I passed by, mostly having to do with servers, data
management, plug-ins and the like. I realized the reason I’m rarely
excited about trade shows. Not only are they large and tiresome – but
they are usually filled with the dreaded “Three H’s” – Hype, Hyperbole
and Hypothetical – all three things that I work very hard to stay away
from – especially when it comes to technology! But, by nature, that’s
what trade shows are all about. With any new product that comes to
market I am always skeptical and cautious to believe the manufacturer
hype. Every manufacturer believes that they have the greatest product –
the one that will solve all your needs (even juliennes fries!). So a
show like NAB is tough for me as I travel from booth to booth listening
to manufacturers and representatives sell me on the benefits and
perfections of their product. My response is usually always the same:
“Sounds great, I should try it out…” A show like NAB is also tough to
find the real gems and innovations as there are so many companies
displaying virtually identical products – differentiating between them,
without a practical examination, can sometimes be impossible.

I did get a chance to head back upstairs to the Band Pro booth to
talk with Paul bamborough from Codex and take a look at the brand-new
Codex Portable, which I missed yesterday. About the size of a
four-slice toaster, it has all the functionality of it’s big-brother
(including working up to 4:4:4 4K) in a lightweight, batter-powered
recorder that can be carried around while shooting handheld. Codex is
in the Band Pro booth SU1320 www.codexdigital.com

The Codex Potable “toaster.”

I stumbled into (and nearly passed by) the booth for pond5.com
an online stock footage company utilizing the same user-generated
content model as istockphoto.com (which I happen to be a HUGE fan of)
with SD and HD royalty-free video footage from $5. With a very friendly
user interface and extraordinarily reasonable prices – pond5 is
definitely something to check out. Booth SL10730.

I passed by – but didn’t get a chance to really talk with them as they were swamped
with people – Topaz Labs. I had heard of their up-rezing software
before, and would like to take a look. It’s one of those
hard-to-believe-until-I-try-it instances where they can convert SD to
HD or HD to 4K and actually improve the image rather than
degrade it by interpolating data and stretching the picture. I picked
up their single-page flyer and will look more into them in the future.
I missed their booth number and couldn’t find them in the directory –
but their website is www.topazlabs.com

Another LCD monitor company caught my attention. Boland has been
around for a long time – but I’m having a hard time swallowing the
claims of their new monitors: ultra-high contrast of 500,000:1 (!), 178
degree viewing angle (which I could see there on site that might be
true for casual viewing, but certainly not for critical image
analysis), 10-bit processing in 40″, 42″, 52″ and 57″ with dynamic LED
backlight. I didn’t get a chance to discuss this further with the rep
as I think I offended her with my shock and skepticism of the tech
specs and she turned her attention to another show attendee. It’s my
assumption that dynamic backlight means that certain backlight LEDs are
turned off in black areas to get deeper blacks in the picture. If
that’s the case – that’s fantastic technology, for sure. Strangely, the
smaller monitors – which I would expect to see in color bays and out in
the field – aren’t rated even close to the big monsters. The 20″ has an
800:1 contrast ratio. I’d like to see these side-by-side with CRTs and
really get a chance to test out a 500,000:1 contrast ratio.

I spent some time in the Thomson/Grass Valley booth checking out the
DMC 1000 – an HD camcorder that shoots in DV25, MPEG-2 and JPEG2000 to
Compact Flash or REV drives. With some of the functionalities of this
camera, I was surprised I hadn’t heard anyone talking about it!
Definitely something I’d like to play with.

The Grass Valley DMC 1000 camcorder.

On the subject of hype – I couldn’t bring myself to stand in the
Disneyland-like line for the Red booth. I know Red has introduced two
new cameras, the Epic (5K!?) and Scarlet (3K!?). I have not personally
had the opportunity to work with the Red camera yet. The closest I’ve
gotten to one was during my Digital Cinematography Supersession at this
past year’s DV Expo when owner/operator Brad Hagen brought in a Red One
for demonstration. Until I can get my hands on one, and know that there
is a legitimate and viable post-production workflow as well as a viable
production package – then I’ll remain healthfully skeptical about the
Red.

Saw an interesting no-frills low-budget camera dolly from Ikan. It’s
ride-able and has track wheels. Folds up small and compact. I’ll be
getting one to review in the near future. Booth SL6820 www.ikancorp.com

The Ikan dolly. Doesn’t look like much – but is definitely a step in the right direction for budget conscious camera movers.

Today was also a day for seeing a lot of familiar faces. I ran into
Bob Primes, ASC, in the morning and had a nice discussion with him
about what he had seen thus far at the show. The Sony PMW-EX3 had
really caught his fancy and he espoused on its virtues for a few
moments; not dissuaded by my pointing out that the camera has a
proprietary lens mount. His comments about the image quality –
especially in comparison with several other cameras available on the
market – made me want to run out and grab one immediately. It’ll
definitely be something to look into in the near future. I finally got
a chance to meet Art Adams in person, a fellow tech-nerd with whom I
have been corresponding through the Cinematography Mailing List for
over a decade. Art is with Element Labs, who make the Kelvin Tile
fixture – which I was very impressed with. The Kelvin Tile is
definitely one of the smarter executions of LED technology I’ve seen
(Booth SL13409 www.elementlabs.com).

I made it through the South Lower section fairly quickly – at about
2:00 and decided to head over to central hall to get a jump on
tomorrow’s agenda. When I walked through the main entrance and saw the
small hall – I was surprised (it’s been a couple years since I’ve been
in central hall). I thought, “Oh man, I’ll make it through this quick!”
and then remembered “oh, wait, it goes on over there… and on… and
on… and on… It must have taken me 15 minutes to get to the back of
the hall and start to weave my way through the booths there. I’m glad I
got a jump on it, cause it’ll be tough to get through the central hall
in a day and change.

One of the products that caught my eye is put together by a small
production company in Atlanta, Georgia. They actually have three
interesting products, but the one that really caught my eye is the
T-Slide, a small camera base on a horizontal, rigid platform for making
tracking moves. An incredibly simple and well-executed device. Check it
out at near the back of the central hall (can’t find their booth
number) not too far from our very own New Bay Media booth (C11837) www.t-jib.com

In the back of central hall I also seemed to slip in to a bizarro
world where a number of traditional American products were being sold
under foreign labels. One of the first I ran across was JieTu a company
from Beijing, China manufacturing tungsten and HMI lighting fixtures
that look remarkably (let’s say nearly IDENTICAL) to a
german company you may have heard of called “Arri.” These blue and
silver Fresnels will make you look twice. I spoke with the
representative through a translator (might have been more handy if the
translator understood the technical questions I was asking…). I think
I may have offended them by mentioning their product looked exactly
like Arri’s – but it’s quite like finding an Arri light’s identical
foreign twin. The only discernable differences I could note were the
lens mount (a simple tension ring on the JieTu fixtures (which are all
named “Junior” – just like Arri’s line…)) and the price – a DTW-150
Junior 150 watt tungsten Fresnel was quoted to me at $80 – a far cry
from it’s identical twin, the Arri 150 at about $360. Since we’re
looking at, cosmetically, the same fixtures (can’t say anything about
performance without testing) and photometric data that matches (ahem) exactly with Arri at 25% the price – y’all might want to check these guys out. Booth C10409 www.jietu.com

Next
up? A Hong Kong company making fluorescent fixtures like many others on
the market – but at a reduced cost (sense a motif here?). A 2-bankk
fluoro fixture which sells else where for $600 – $800 was quoted to me
at $300. Take a peek for yourself www.tokina.com.hk

More to come!

Contributing Editor Ned Soltz
TUESDAY, APRIL 15
Day 2 of NAB was very long day. The buzz of the show: Scarlet. Shipping
in 2009. No orders taken at show. 3K camera for $3K. 2/3″ CMOS sensor.
Record Red codec to SD cards. Say what you might, Red indeed delivered
its promise to ship the Red One camera last year. Say what you might
about the evolving Red workflow, some amazing video is being shot on
Red One. Delivers and refinements continue. Scarlet is definitely a
futuristic product. I will plunk down my deposit as soon as they are
taking orders.

Now, back to the world of real products either shipping now or
shipping soon. In no particular order, here’s what impressed me today:

Matrox MXO 2
I’ve long been a user and an advocate of
the Matrox MXO for accurate
monitoring from Mac to a basic DVI monitor. Nothing beats the accuracy
for the price. Now Matrox has introduced an external capture box with a
full set of digial and analog I/os — SDI, component, s-video, HDMI, and
AES/EBU audio. It interfaces to a MacBook Pro via an Express34 card
slot and to a MacPro via a PCIe card. It captures uncompressed video to
any codec which Final Cut Pro understands — SD, HD uncompressed,
DVCPRO, ProRes 422 — you name it. To prove that it is a truly portable
device, it can operate on battery as well as via AC adapter. This one
can do everything — desktop as well as moble file acquisition and
playback to or from any source. And, as an added bonus, it supports
calibration to any HDMI HDTV which offers pixel-for-pixel mapping. The
price is an amazing $16,00.

Sachtler SOOM
Sachtler was showing their Soom tripod
system shown for the first time last September at IBC. It’s a tripod,
it’s a monopod, it’s a highhat. It goes
low; it goes high. It is the Swiss Army Knife of camera supports.
Price:
$3,495

GridIron Flow
GridIron was showing its asset tracking
management software Flow and is
about to release a public beta. As well, GridIron announced a price of
$349. Flow works with any application on Windows or Mac to track all
assets within a project and then provide consolidated access to the
individual media files.

Yes, Avid
While Avid was a no-show in the exhibit
hall, the company was holding court in the Renaissance Hotel across the
parking lot from the LVCC. I was treated to a demo of Media Composer
3.0 and told about the pending release of Symphony 3.0 and Newscutter
7.0. More exciting though, was the introduction of two new capture
board solutions. Rather than relying upon Firewire 400 as did
Adrenalin, MojoDX and NitrisDX are Express34 to PCIe capture and output
boxes with full complements of I/os. The MojoDX has no analog while
NitrisDX is complete. Avid has lowered prices.

Symphony 3.0 with MojoDX is around $10K and $15K with the
NitrisDX box. Software improvements throughout the line speed up
playback with the software looking ahead for effects and transitions. A
new titling tool has been introduced. In my opinion, Avid has the right
idea and is on the right trak both in product lineup and price
point.

I’ll conclude this partial summary of my day with a hands-on
look at one of Sunday’s more exciting announcements: the Panasonic
Varicam 2700 and 3700 models. Not only is Varicam both 720 and 1080,
the 5 P2 card slots (or, I should say P2HD) make the camera totally
tapeless and the expansion of AVC-Inta from the HPX3000 camera takes
file-based workflow to a new level of quality.

Every joint aches from miles of walking and schlepping literature and
freebees and even recalling the day makes it worse. So, I’ll sign off now and bring you more NAB reports tomorrow.

Editor David Williams
MONDAY, APRIL 14
I’ve just returned from the annual Canon USAdinner held at Roy’s Las Vegas— which has excellent
Hawaiian-fusion food. One of the best NAB media events to attend, it’s
a casual affair where one can laugh, drink and corner company
executives for solid, candid information. One such question was posed
to Larry Thorpe, the National Marketing Executive of Canon’s Broadcast
and Communications Division, during the traditional night-ending
Q&A session: “Does it bother Canon that Sony’s new EX-3 camera
[featuring an interchangable lens] has a proprietary mount?” He smiled
and replied, “I won’t speak for Canon on this, but it does bother Larry
Thorpe.”

Thorpe is a man who clearly loves his job and simply wants to
supply users with the best possible glass that they can easily use on
the camera of their choice. He went on to say that he had discussed the
issue with Sony and then explained that the new mount was necessitated
by the EX-3’s engineering requirements, and that Canon would surely
offer an adapter to allow the use of their optics with it. “Sony just
released the camera yesterday,” he added, “so give us a little time and
we’ll have lenses for it.”

Among the press at the Canon event was DV friend Mark Pescatore, the editor of Government Videomagazine. While there to rep his publication, Mark was also doing
interviews for his popular “Two-Minute Drill” Podcast series, published
on the TV Broadcast magazine site.

Recorder in hand, Mark Pescatore grills Canon’s Larry Thorpe.

You can check out the latest editions of Pescatore’s “TMD” right here. His interview with Thorpe will appear in the next few days.

Of note, two other guests at the Canon dinner were Fred Kaufman and
Neil Rettig, the former an exec producer with the PBS series Nature
(now in its 26th season) and the latter a cinematographer and
naturalist filmmaker. They have been collaborating for almost 30 years,
and their latest project is an episode of Nature currently entitled American Eagle.

Shot by Rettig with a Panasonic VariCam fitted with Canon’s HJ40X10B 10-400mm lens (to which a doubler was then added), American Eagle features breathtaking footage of our national bird in flight, clips of which we saw at the dinner.

Canon’s HJ40X10B lens.

With Rettig often sequestered in a blind more than 100 yards from
his skittish subjects, the HJ40X10B zoom was the perfect tool for the
job, and he credits Canon for their support not only on this project,
but over many years of working together.

For more detail on the HJ40X10B zoom, go here.

American Eagle will air on PBS in the Fall.

Technical Editor Jay
Holben

MONDAY, APRIL 14
Ah… dizzying NAB. Day one is “in the can,” so to speak. This show is
always a monster to try and tackle; and always a little intimidating.
The show encompasses the entire Las Vegas Convention Center — which is
no small potatoes. As there are four major expo areas, I decided to hit
one per day while I’m here. I started today with the Upper Level of the
South Hall. For some odd reason, I started at the back of the hall —
perhaps as a subconscious effort to be moving toward the light at the
end of the tunnel — the show exit!

The NAB show floor as seen through my blurry eyes after eight hours.

The South Upper Hall is a collection of content management, systems
support companies, acquisition and production services. There are a ton
of companies offering streaming, compression and data management — but
I was mostly sauntering past those booths with a smile. I was trying to
be as thorough as I could be and make sure I wasn’t missing any gems
hidden in the corners.

I did catch a few toys that sparked my interest. The first thing I
encountered was a Japanese company with a compact digital data recorder
for high-end digital cinematography systems. Keisoku Giken was showing
a prototype of the UDR-D100, a hard disc drive / flash disk pack (I’m
confused as to which it is, apparently both?) that looks quite a bit
like the HDCAM SR deck that mounts to the back of the Genesis, Sony F23
or F35. The UDR-D100 is capable of uncompressed recording and playback
of 1920 x 1080 4:4:4 10 bit data stream in 60, 59.94, 30, 29.97, 24 and
23.98. The unit has Time code in and out, two SDI inputs, 1 XLR audio
input (including a headphone jack for monitoring). The discussion with
the very friendly designer, engineer and project manager was
lighthearted, but extremely difficult and made me wish I had studied
Japanese in school rather than fumbling through Spanish. The UDR-100 is
due out in the 4th quarter of 2008, hopefully there will be more
information on it in the coming months. Other than declaring, “Oneness
with a camera expands your Image expression” [sic] the one-sheet
technical specifications are about as indiscernible as my conversation
with the creators. Nevertheless, it’s a product that I’ll be keeping my
eye on. Keisoku Giken is in booth SU15816. www.keisoki.co.jp

The next booth that caught my eye was a Korean company, again, with
very friendly, albeit indecipherable representatives. Bon was
presenting their BLM series of professional broadcast LCD monitors.
These full-resolution 10-bit HD LCD monitors were quite impressive on
the show floor and available in many sizes from 8.4″ up to 55″.
Although without extensive testing side-by-side with a high-definition
CRT, I can’t attest for the viability of these monitors, their
published specifications are quite impressive: 178 degree viewing
angles, 1000:1 contrast ratios in several models. These are monitors
I’d like to take a more aggressive look at. Bon is in booth SU15812. www.bon.co.kr

At a relatively non-descript booth in the back corner I found a
product that made me laugh a bit. The claims are so extraordinary that
I’ll just have to remain skeptical until I can test it for myself. The
FastVDO SmartCapture Lite is “The World’s First USB H.264/ACC
Capture Device All-in-One Solution” according to their flyer.
“Podcasting for the common man” is what Dr. Pankaj Topiwala, the
company’s president and CEO told me. This little bugger – the size of a
USB flash drive – captures video from pretty much any standard
definition composite source (NTSC 720 x 480 or PAL 720 x 576) along
with analog stereo audio, digitizes and compresses the footage and
prepares it for immediate playback on iPod, iPhone, PSP, AppleTV, the
Web, etc. In the booth they were playing a DVD of The Matrix
which was output real-time via the FastVDO, uploaded to a server in the
booth and was playing in QuickTime on a Mac laptop. Even crazier, the
“professional” model is only $200. Pretty amazing. FastVDO is in booth
SU13610. www.fastvdo.com

Lowel Lighting had a couple of “sneak-peeks” at interesting new
toys. The Trio is a small fluorescent fixture with three
independently-switched globes; kind of a hybrid between their Caselite
and their Fluo-Tech fixtures. Lowel was also giving a sneak-peek at
their soon-to-be-available Softcore fixture, which has an egg-like
softbox and utilizes the same interconnectable fixtures as the Rifa eX
and allows you to have one, three or five CFL in the softbox. The box
itself has quick-release tension rods for easy assembly and take-down.
The large egg-shaped softbox gives the same kind of light quality as a
large chinaball. I’d be interested in playing with this one a bit more.
Lowel is in booth SU9120. www.lowel.com

The inside of the Lowel Softcore.

Electrophysics offers some really, really cool geek-out AstroScope
Night Vision attachments for a very wide variety of video and still
cameras including fixed lens camcorders, 1/3″, 1/2″ and 2/3″ lens
mounts. You can add authentic night-vision to nearly every digital
camera on the market! Their law enforcement-grade equipment is the real
deal and a lot of fun to goof around with. The lens adapters are rather
large and a bit clunky, but the results are very cool. No more
effecting regular footage in post to mimic a night-vision look – shoot
the real thing! Gotta get this one to the Ghost Hunters! Electrophysics is in booth SU6908 www.electrophysics.com

AstroScope’s Night Vision intensifier module situated between an adapter on the camera and a C-mount lens.

Iconix now has 2K systems available in addition to an up-coming 3D
camera rig. These little cameras are becoming quite popular and are
incredibly versatile. Ikonix is in booth SU6426 www.iconixvideo.com

Hoodman has a fancy new device that caught my eye: the WristShot
camcorder support system. At first I thought the guy holding the
camcorder had a broken wrist, then realized there was an articulated
camera mount coming out of his wrist brace! For small,
non-shoudler-mounted camcorders, the strain on your arm and wrist can
be considerable for long handheld shoots. This extremely lightweight
brace locks your wrist firmly into place and actually distributes the
camcorder’s weight from your palm and wrist onto your forearm. At $200,
it’s a very interesting solution to arm fatigue on smaller camcorder
shoots. Hoodman is in booth SU3611 www.hoodmanusa.com

The WristShot.

Just outside the main doors on the far side of the south upper hall
is a little area with a number of D-TV companies where I found Sarnoff
Corporation and Norm Hurst who walked me though their extremely
impressive digital test pattern. Although I could see limited
applications, for me, the larger applications for this tool were
staggering. At a glance it quickly – and easily – reports color
fidelity, resolution, compression, errors in chroma sampling, errors in
field dominance, errors in format conversion, even see if the sound
sync is correct – all in one looping feed. It’s a well-designed, well
layed-out test pattern that can solve a multitude of mysterious
problems in your project workflow. Sarnoff is in the ATSC/DTV “HotSpot”
in the far south-east corner of South Upper hall – just outside the
main doors www.sarnoff.com

In the Band Pro booth, Codex systems is quietly showing their Codex
Portable recorder – an extraordinary device that allows field recording
from any high-end digital cinema camera with a multitude of real-time
outputs. I knew they were showing this (even wrote about it in DV’s Pre
NAB issue) – but it completely skipped my mind as I was at Band Pro and
I neglected to get a more detailed demonstration; a mistake I’ll amend
tomorrow.

Of course the biggies for the day are the new cameras. Everyone
loves new toys and what are the best new toys to a filmmaker? NEW
CAMERAS!! Why else do we come to NAB? Canon introduces four new
cameras: The XL H1s, XLH1a, XH G1 and HXA1. The XL H1s and a are
upgrades from the existing XL H1 – and they’re impressive upgrades.
CANON HAS BEEN LISTENING, FOLKS!! THEY’VE BEEN LISTENING!! The 20x lens
for the XL H1s and a is brand-spanking new and has quite a few
advancements over the previous XL 20x, not the least of which being an IRIS RING!!,
that’s right, folks, an honest-to-good rotateable ring to control the
camera’s iris in 1/16 stop (although only calibrated in the monitor in
1/4 stops). It is, unfortunately, a servo iris, just like the focus and
zoom – but well know beggars just can’t be choosers no matter how much
they moan. In addition, you can now focus while zooming, the
menu is much improved allowing even more image control than before.
It’s an even bigger upgrade than the XL1s was to the XL1. The only
difference between the XL H1s and XL H1a is the lack of timecode in and
out, SDI out and gen-lock on the XL H1a, making it a less expensive
upgrade if those features aren’t required for your productions. The XH
G1 and XH A1 are virtually identical to the XL H1, except in body
shape, lack of SDI output (on the A1) and fixed lenses. All four
cameras are HDV. Canon is in booth SU3020 www.canondv.com

Not to be outdone, Sony has introduced their own new camera, a new
version of the EX1 – the PMW-EX3! The PMW-EX3 camcorder features
similar functionality to the PMW-EX1, but it has interchangeable
lenses, gen-lock and timecode in/out for multi-camera operation. The
viewfinder has changed with a more standard eyecup than can be flipped
up to reveal a hooded LCD screen – it’s a really nice hybrid between
the two. An additional plate on the back makes the camera
psudo-shoulder mounted (much like the flip-out shoulder rest on the
original Canon XL1). An additional “cheek plate” flips out off the back
of the camera giving you something to rest against your cheek – like
the body of a full-sized ENG camera; one of those options that makes
you go “humph, that’s interesting…” but seems a bit cheap and cheesy
to me. Sony is – well – not possible to miss in their massive booth
SU906.

At the end of the night, through some coercion and arm-twisting, I
talked Sony’s Gary Mandle into taking me into their super-secret
‘invite-only’ demonstration suite to see a side-by-side comparison with
the new BVM LCD monitors and their tried-and-true BVM CRT monitor. The
BVM LCDs are quite impressive in their own right, with rich blacks and
many features that will fit right at home in a color bay – such as
side-by-side picture with internal wipe. They’re 12-bit processing and
10-bit LCD screens with a 30 degree viewing angle (15 degrees per side
of center). The demonstration was quite eye-opening showing that under
certain conditions, the LCD monitor just can’t reproduce the same
blacks as a CRT. What was really shocking were the instances were the
LCD produced better blacks than the CRT. When increasing the
ambient light levels in the room – with a Fresnel pointed directly at
the monitors from a truss above them – the ambient light reflects off
the CRT’s glass tube and completely compromises the blacks (and image
as a whole) – which is why CRTs need to be tented in. The LCDs – even
with light DIRECTLY on them – maintained the same black levels. Also,
with a checkerboard pattern of large white and black squares – the
halation from the white squares reflecting off the CRTs glass
compromised the blacks. The LCD did not have the same problem. In a
darkened room, the CRT was still the clear winner – especially when we
put a PLUGE signal on the screens – the LCDs just couldn’t represent
the black levels like the CRT in a darkened room. Regardless – the
technology of the BVM LCDs is leaps and bounds where it was two years
ago. This is a legitimate post-production (and even production)
tool for critical color work. I’m anxious to see further advancements
in Sony’s BVM LCD line.

Editor David Williams
SUNDAY, APRIL 13
We’re sitting around the newsroom in the North Hall guessing who will
be the first to shoot a feature in 3K with Red’s Scarlet and in 5K with
their forthcoming Epic cam. Given their announced delivery date of
early 2009, I suppose we could also be making side bets on when they
will actually arrive, but that would be rude.

Check the available info and specs here.

Impressive, no?

Contributing Editor Ned Soltz
SUNDAY, APRIL 13
My usual NAB rituals continue. I arrived
early enough in the morning so that I could just have a 30-minute wait
to check into hotel rather than the hour that I have sometimes waited.

Sunday’s at NAB always include press conferences from Panasonic
and Sony. Both of their press events include user stories, third party
partners and product announcements all interspersed.

Panasonic’s most significant announcement to me is P2 HD (and
note the subtle change from just P2 to P2 HD) coming to Varicam. Two
new varicam models the AJ-HPX 3700 and AJ-HPX 2700 each record to 5 P2
cards with standard AVC-Intra codec. In fact, they record AVC Intra
100, AVC-I 50 and DVCPRO HD in all 720 and 1080 modes. Both have 3 2/3″
CCD chips and HD-SDI output with the 3700 adding a 4:4:4 RGB Dual Link
output. The 3700 can record 4:2:2 to P2 while simultaneously streaming
4:4:4 through the dual link.

The HPX-170 (price not announced) is a camera with the HVX-200
form factor but without tape mechanism and weighing only 4.2 pounds. It
adds HD-SDI to the existing output set of the HVX. This one really
impressed me (as an HVX owner) since I must say that I have never once
run a tape (what’s that?) through my HVX.

And I shouldn’t forget the the LH-1760 monitor, a successor to
the very popular LH-1700 and adding 120 hz refresh and vectorscope as
well as waveform monitor.

At the consumer to prosumer end of the market, Panasonic is
expanding its offerings of AVCHD gear with cameras starting at $2495.

We also learned of Panasonic’s commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.

Sony as well touted their green commitments with recycling
programs. I guess it’s good to know and gives me a very warm fuzzy
feeling.

Sony is expanding its line of XDCAM HD gear with the PDW-700
camera, shooting 50 mps MPEG2 XDCAM 4:2:2. Oh, and we also learned that
next season of Survivor will be shot on XDCAM HD.

In touting all of the productions broadcast with Sony gear, one
of the highlights was the Miss Universe Pagent broadcast live from
Vegas this past Friday evening. And Sony even treated the boys (after
all, NAB stands for Nearly All Boys and if you’ve been to the show you
know what I mean) to Miss Universe 2007 herself —Riyo Mori from Japan —
carrying the much-anticipated Sony EX-3 HDCAM EX camera on stage. [Edit
Note: Yes, you can see photos of her here at the official Miss Universe site.]

The EX-3 expands upon the EX-1 capabilites adding
interchangeable lenses, TC in and out, and a dial on camera for
over/undercranking. I’ll find out today whether this allows ramping
within a shot. The viewfinder is larger as is the LCD screen. I must
say that this generated at least as much excitement as did Miss
Universe. Available in the fall, the EX-3 will list around $13K and
represents an important increment in the product line with a
positioning between the EX-1 and the optical-disk based XDCAM F series.
I love it. I want one.

I won’t detail all of the other broadcast and indie-prod
related products just for some modicum of brevity. Suffice it to say,
that there are new offerings in Trimaster LCD monitors as well as the
LUMA series.

NAB is also about parties and I attended the Blackmagic Design party in a very swanky suite at the Palms.

I was the first press member to see the new BMD line and was sworn to absolute silence until Monday’s release.

BMD will introduce a new line of converters all priced at $495.
They include Component->SDI, SDI->HDMI, and a range of others.
Check out their site at decklink.com,
which should be updated by the time you read this. The popular
Multibridge Pro has been released as a standalone converter for $995.
And in an entry into the consumer market, BMD announces a USB device to
record and transcode to H.264 for iPod, iPhone, or just for later
viewing. The analog version is $119, perfect for consumers. There is
also a version with HD-SDI input for $299. This is not just a
transcoder, it is a recorder with a software UI and is very clever.

Of course, part of the NAB ritual is the male-bonding shopping
excursion with my fellow sartorially-aware colleague Noah Kadner (no
wives allowed). I am pleased to report that it was a great success.

Editor David Williams
SUNDAY, APRIL 13
Planet Hollywood played host to Panasonic’s press briefing this
afternoon, and a sizable turnout showed to check out their major NAB
announcements. While we’ll post Panasonic’s releases in their entirety
in our Industry News
section, suffice to say that their new AVCHD P2 HD handheld camcorders
— the AG-HMC150 (will be available this Fall at a suggested list price
under $4,500) and AG-HPX170 (also available in the Fall) will be of
most interesting to DV readers.

The AG HMC-150

The AG HPX-170

Reviews of both cameras will be forthcoming.

Panasonic had strong mojo, with reps from numerous corporate partners joining them on stage.

A trio of Panasonic’s guests at the event were representatives from the Wounded Marine Careers Foundation,
a San Diego-based organization that helps retrain Leathernecks who have
been seriously injured on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan for
new careers in the A/V field.

Organization co-founder Judith Paizao is flanked by two participants in the Wounded Marine Careers Foundation.

Panasonic noted in a release:

With wounded Marines returning from Afghanistan and Iraq,
many without alternative career options, the Wounded Marine Careers
Foundation aims to provide these veterans with new, marketable skills
for careers in media following their rehabilitation. When it opened the
doors of its career training center for injured Marines and Navy
corpsmen earlier this year, the foundation equipped its students with a
different kind of learning tool – Panasonic AG-HVX200 P2 HD camcorders.

The Wounded Marine Center for Careers in Media program,
administered by the foundation, takes its students — many whom are in
medical and physical therapy — through a 10-week training course
covering writing, cinematography, video and sound editing, lighting,
photojournalism and more.

The 5,000 square-foot training center, located on the
Stu Segal Productions studio lot in San Diego, CA, is equipped with 11
HVX200 P2 HD camcorders and AJ-PCD20 five-slot P2 card readers. Upon
completion, graduates receive professional certification and union
membership in the International Alliance of Theatre Stage Employees
(IATSE); the program also assists with job placement.

Husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Kev Lombard and Judith Paixao,
the foundation’s co-founders, developed the center’s pilot program,
which recently honored its inaugural class of 19 members at their
graduation in March.

Paixao explained the foundation’s mission, “Many
service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan go through difficult
challenges during their recovery. Upon leaving the hospital, these
young heroes often have no alternative careers or other professional
skills to fall back on. They planned to remain in the military or
transition to law enforcement professions, but now they cannot due to
their wounds. This program helps them establish successful careers for
many years to come.”

Lombard, a four-time Emmy Award winner who serves as the
facility’s director, said his inspiration for the foundation was a
personal one. “It’s a tribute to my father, a World War II veteran, who
went on to become an award-winning cinematographer for NBC. As my
father taught me about cinematography, he always reminded me that I
would eventually have to pass on my knowledge to others. I’m overjoyed
to be able to help these veterans through this program.”

“Through our program, the wounded Marines learn to do
their own storytelling and share the full perspective of their war
experience,” said Lombard. “Very often, when it comes to the war and
the military, the media tends to capture only what they need for their
story. Storytelling offers these wounded Marines a way, not only to get
their voices heard, but also to heal.”

A long-time Panasonic camera user, Lombard said the
HVX200 was the perfect fit for the program. “We knew we needed a camera
that was easy for the wounded veterans to hold up and maneuver. It had
to be small enough, but still have a professional look and generate
high-quality pictures – footage that could be used in a feature
release.”

“We also wanted to ensure that the students were
trained with the latest camera technology,” he continued. “We wanted to
use a tapeless, solid-state

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