Manufacturers have been holding their NAB info close to the vest during the run-up to the show. This year many have already been showing new versions of products for the past six months. It seems like 2012 will be more of a stable year, when products shown will actually be proven in the field and ready to ship.
ARRI ALEXA Studio
This is likely to be a great year for RED Digital Cinema. The upstart camera maker is getting its sea legs along with the street cred that comes from being used on numerous high-visibility feature film productions. At the high end, NAB will be a three-way tug of war among RED, ARRI and Sony.
The RED EPIC—arguably the most innovative camera on the market—will be RED’s standard-bearer for 4K (and beyond) acquisition. Sony will be in full force to challenge RED’s niche with the F65. It was introduced last year in prototype form as Sony’s 4K answer, and this year it will return as an actual production model. Meanwhile, ARRI will present several versions of the ALEXA camera. Although primarily an HD camera that’s also capable of 3K camera raw recordings, the ARRI ALEXA garnered a sizeable share of the episodic TV market this year, as well as shooting tentpole features like Hugo.
Canon EOS C300
The middle tier pits the Sony PMW-F3, the new RED SCARLET and the Canon C300 against each other. This will be the first showing at NAB for these RED and Canon offerings, which continue to feed the appetite for Super 35mm-sized sensors at all price points.
Although the stereo 3D frenzy will likely be subdued, Sony, Panasonic and JVC each offer twin-lens, one-piece camcorders for easy stereo production. Sony’s HXR-NX3D1U is a lightweight 2D/3D camera that’s part of the NXCAM family. Panasonic has built on its development of the AG-3DA1 to offer two additional twin-lens cameras, the AG-3DP1 and HDC-Z10000. JVC has joined the twin-lens party with the small GY-HMZ1U. It uses the same chip technology at the GY-HMQ10 camcorder, which is capable of capturing and recording 3840 x 2160 images at 24p, 50p and 60p. The JVC HMQ10 promises to be the lowest-cost camera to record 4K frame sizes.
Video-enabled DSLRs continue to be popular, with particular interest in the Canon EOS-1D X, which promises improved HD video capture, and the EOS 5D Mk III. The only production-friendly camera of this style and in this price range remains Panasonic’s AG-AF100, which is based on the Micro Four Thirds format. Of course, these cameras don’t fit the needs of many run-and-gun videographers, which means Sony, Panasonic and JVC will continue to promote their popular XDCAM, P2 VariCam and ProHD products here.
Naturally, the acquisition segment includes a growing selection of solid-state recorders from AJA Video, Convergent Design, Cinedeck, Sound Devices, Atomos, Blackmagic Design and others.
An interesting trend in all of these offerings is the move to add additional codec options. Many started as Apple ProRes-based QuickTime media recorders, but Apple’s introduction of Final Cut Pro X has spooked the industry enough to hedge its bets. Many of these vendors are offering the ability to record using an Avid DNxHD codec in addition to ProRes. A new, albeit expensive addition to this group is the Sony SR-R4 portable memory recorder, designed as a companion to the F65.
Apple hasn’t been an official exhibitor for years, but the company nevertheless continues to impact the NAB Show. Final Cut Pro X has splintered the industry in a way that has sparked new interest in Avid, Adobe and Grass Valley desktop edit systems. In November, Avid released its highly anticipated 64-bit update for the Media Composer/NewsCutter/Symphony product family (version 6.0). It also released Pro Tools 10. This will be the first NAB showing for each. Left out of these announcements has been any word of the company’s flagship Avid DS editor, so maybe that leaves some room for an NAB surprise. Avid also recently released its Avid Studio for iPad software. It’s targeted at consumers, based on the Avid Studio NLE.
The betting money is on Adobe for big show news. The video products in the Creative Suite saw only a small upgrade last year, to CS5.5. Since then, Adobe has made tremendous gains from the Apple FCP X fallout, not to mention picking up IRIDAS (makers of the SpeedGrade color correction software) and Automatic Duck’s development team. They’ve become popular with RED camera users and have played instrumental roles in the post pipelines of films including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo and Act of Valor. Recently Adobe previewed Prelude, a media browsing and pre-editing application. They’ve also posted little online “peeks” at some of the new content-aware features of Photoshop. Clearly the anticipation is mounting.
As some users reconsider the Mac platform entirely, Windows-only solutions like Grass Valley EDIUS are gaining interest. At NAB, EDIUS 6.5 will demonstrate a comprehensive stereo 3D editing workflow and native support for raw footage from RED cameras. A special systemized EDIUS version will be able to work with the Grass Valley K2 Summit 3G server. The full family of 3D-compatible Grass Valley editing peripherals, such as the STORM 3G 3D and STORM 3G Elite 3D accelerator cards, are now supported from the EDIUS timeline. EDIUS 6.5 also incorporates a new Flash exporter, native image stabilization, built-in loudness meter and closed caption/audio bit stream (Dolby-E, AC-3) pass-through support.
RED Digital Cinema SCARLET-X
EditShare has continued advanced development of Lightworks, adding greater codec and third-party support, project sharing and stereoscopic workflows. On its NAB stand, EditShare will host a “Lightworks Edit Bar,” where attendees can test-drive the latest Lightworks release. EditShare is also a leading supplier of shared storage solutions and systems for collaborative workflows. New capabilities to be shown at NAB include Adobe Premiere Pro project sharing, support for Final Cut Pro X and enhanced networking configurations.
Autodesk Media & Entertainment will mark the 20th anniversary of Flame at NAB with top-notch client demos. Evan Schechtman, chief technology officer of @radical.media, will present Smoke for Mac, while Vico Sharabani, VFX supervisor/co-founder of COPA, will present Flame Premium.
Last year Thunderbolt was a fledgling technology, but this year I predict it will be in abundance. Thunderbolt-equipped Macs have been selling for months and the first PCs with Thunderbolt are hitting the market now. For editors, this means Thunderbolt capture/output/broadcast monitoring cards and storage. There are varied solutions from all the vendors, with differing feature sets to suit your need. AJA Io XT builds on AJA’s track record with the robust Io product family. Io XT supports analog and digital I/O, VTR control, Thunderbolt loop-through and 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 SDI plus HDMI connections. Blackmagic Design will offer three Thunderbolt products: Intensity Shuttle Thunderbolt, Intensity Extreme and UltraStudio 3D. These target a variety of needs and budgets and are designed for anything from simple HDMI monitoring to full 2K and 3D capabilities.
MOTU, another popular interface vendor, has added Thunderbolt technology to its HDX-SDI video device. HDX-SDI is a 1 RU high, rugged HD/SD external device with extensive audio features in addition to the video capability. Matrox, on the other hand, has decided to offer a PCIe-to-Thunderbolt adapter instead of a dedicated Thunderbolt-specific product. The adapter, showcased at last year’s NAB Show, can be used with any of the MXO2 products, which means that these can continue to be used with non-Thunderbolt workstations and laptops. For the first time in the history of the industry, all of these I/O products are supported by all of the popular NLE software options. Some of the drivers are still in beta, but all of the devices will work with FCP X, FCP 7, Premiere Pro and Media Composer.
AJA Io XT
Storage is the other part of this story, since the design of Thunderbolt technology permits the I/O device, the computer display and an external drive array to all be connected to one port as part of a single daisy chain. Promise Technology introduced its Pegasus RAID last year; to date, this has been the main Thunderbolt-compatible system. LaCie has also been shipping Thunderbolt units, and Sonnet Technology offers both drive arrays and an ExpressCard/34-to-Thunderbolt adapter. Expect to see a lot more options at NAB, including products from G-Technology, Western Digital and possibly CalDigit.
Of Further Interest
Questions over the future of the Mac Pro tower have some users moving to PCs, especially those made by HP. Ironically, HP recently announced its own all-in-one computer (the 27” HP Z1 Workstation) along the lines of the iMac. In past years, Apple has had an invisible presence at the show based simply on the number of machines (usually Mac Pro towers) used by demo artists in many vendor booths. It will be interesting to see how many of those same demos are running under Windows this year.
Avid Studio for iPad
Blackmagic Design has been on the corporate acquisition trail for several years, assimilating DaVinci and Echolab products into its family. The newest member is Teranex, maker of the “gold standard” in format converters. Predictably, the initial result has been a simplified product line and a lower price for the Teranex flagship VC100 processor. Expect to find them in the ever-growing Blackmagic Design booth.
Cloud editing has kept a low profile since a number of prominent demos by Avid and others a few years ago. Avid and Quantel are offering the only cloud-based editing solutions to date. In the case of Avid, cloud editing falls under the Integrated Media Enterprise banner and specific products are part of Interplay Production. For Quantel, it’s QTube, a complete set of scalable mobile browsing and editing applications that work over IP. On a smaller scale, Adobe has been promoting its cloud-based Story application as part of an end-to-end use of metadata. Expect to see more from these three and others at the show.