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2014 NAB Show: 4K and More K

This year’s NAB Show convention and equipment exhibition proved once again that you can never quite predict which companies and products will dominate the conversation.

CION at the AJA booth at the 2014 NAB Show. Photo by Mary Ellen Dawley.

AJA exemplified this proposition by bringing the CION camera, a completely unexpected product from a company known for digital video interface and conversion solutions. CION has been in development under wraps at AJA for nearly five years. The launch makes AJA the newest vendor to enter the 4K camera market. (Last year’s NAB Show was highlighted by announcements of 4K cameras by manufacturers including Blackmagic Design, RED Digital Cinema, Sony Electronics and Canon.)

AJA’s camera is designed for the needs of DPs, with an ergonomic shape, comfortable shoulder pad, convenient top handle and PL lens mount system. The sensor is a 4K APS-C sized CMOS with a global shutter and 12 stops of dynamic range. The recording system inside is based on AJA’s Ki Pro Quad. It features ProRes and camera raw recording at up to 4096 x 2160 and frame rates up to 60 fps. The recording media is SSD-based Pak storage.

AJA CION is a 4K camera designed for the needs of DPs.

Other AJA announcements included KONA 4, which supports HD, 2K and 4K workflows up to 50p/60p frame rates. KONA 4 offers expanded developer support and will be integrated into Flame Premium 2015 systems by Autodesk. Corvid 88, a product designed for integration into third-party products, is a PCIe 2.0 card with eight independent channels of 3G, HD and SD-SDI I/O. AJA also launched FS1-X, its “next generation” frame synchronizer and frame rate converter. It supports full up/down/cross-conversion between various SD and HD formats.

Blackmagic Design’s booth was a packed house for most of the show. The company has grown from a manufacturer of I/O cards and converters to a supplier of a wide range of products including switchers, routers, cameras, telecines, monitors and postproduction software. Blackmagic’s mini-converter line gains a set of 4K products for conversion between SDI and HDMI, SDI and analog 4K, plus SDI to multiple SDI outputs. The company expanded its DeckLink PCIe capture card line with the addition of DeckLink SDI 4K and DeckLink Studio 4K models. Teranex Express, a lower-cost, real-time SD/HD/UHD converter, was also announced.

Blackmagic URSA incorporates a Super 35mm global shutter 4K sensor and internal dual raw and ProRes recorders.

Blackmagic, which earned significant show buzz with its cameras in past years, repeated the achievement in 2014. The company announced two new cameras: the Blackmagic Studio Camera and Blackmagic URSA. The Studio Camera is a beefier version of the form factor used in the Cinema and Production cameras. It features a 10” viewfinder, an active Micro Four Thirds mount and an MFT-to-B4 lens mount adapter to accommodate broadcast lenses. Available in HD and Ultra HD models, the Studio Camera is intended for tripod and studio pedestal operation.

Blackmagic URSA is a shoulder-mount EFP/ENG camera. It features a Super 35mm global shutter 4K sensor and internal dual raw and ProRes recorders. Customers can choose EF, PL or B4 mounts. URSA uses a 10” fold-out, side-mounted viewfinder and a liquid cooling system. Because the sensor and lens mount assembly can be changed, customers can choose EF or PL lens mounts, or even a broadcast video sensor with B4 mount, then upgrade the camera in the future.

The Blackmagic Studio Camera features a 10-inch viewfinder and active Micro Four Thirds lens mount with adapter to accommodate broadcast lenses.

Another Blackmagic surprise was the Cintel Film Scanner for $30,000. People may ask, “Why film?” Blackmagic answers that the demand for 4K/Ultra HD content by consumers is pushing companies to tap 35mm film assets that have been locked up in vaults or digitized at lower resolutions in past years. The new Cintel scanner is an elegant mechanism designed to make film transfers easy. It features built-in stabilization and noise reduction and connects to any newer Mac as a Thunderbolt 2 peripheral. Transfers of 16mm and 35mm are supported up to UHD resolution at up to 30 fps in real time. Simple transfer software and a full copy of DaVinci Resolve are included.

The version 11 update turns Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve into a powerful NLE. Photo by Mary Ellen Dawley.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 11 captured the attention of every editor at this year’s NAB Show. We saw it coming last year (in Resolve 10), but Resolve 11 turns this color corrector into a powerful NLE. Cosmetically, the editing panel looks like the perfect mash-up between Final Cut Pro “legacy” and Final Cut Pro X. Dual-monitor setups are now fully supported. Seventy new editing features have been added to Resolve’s traditional track-based bin and timeline structure. Trimming tools are advanced and context-sensitive. OpenFX plug-ins can now be applied to timeline clips, as well as to nodes in the color correction pane. Resolve 11 adds OpenCL optimization that makes it a perfect application for the new Mac Pro, with its dual GPUs. Most of these features are in the free Lite version of Resolve, but the paid software adds multi-user collaboration tools. For example, a colorist and editor can simultaneously work on a common timeline using different machines. Timeline updates may then be selectively accepted by either user to integrate the other’s work.

Sony F55 camera at the Band Pro booth. Photo by Mary Ellen Dawley.

The traditional camera manufacturers had good news as well. Sony Electronicsintroduced an upgrade path from the F5 camera to the F55, the addition of Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD recording options in the F5/F55, and the ability to add user LUTs to the F5/F55/F65. There’s also an ENG shoulder-mount dock for the F5 and F55. The F65 is now capable of up to 120 fps recording in 4K.

One of the more well received cameras at the NAB Show came from Sony’s still photography division. Its Alpha 7S still camera is able to utilize the entire width of its full-frame image sensor in 4K video acquisition, without cropping or line skipping, as it can read and process data from every one of the sensor’s pixels. It features 4K video out via HDMI. In its pro video mode, you can shoot up to 120 fps at 720p resolution. There’s an S-Log setting and it records in the XAVC format.

Sony’s Alpha 7S still camera uses the entire width of its full-frame image sensor in 4K video acquisition.

Other Sony news included a bigger push for its Sony Ci cloud service under the Sony Content Distribution Services brand. Ci can function as a comprehensive production review and approval site, with the ability to create browser-based rough cuts and provide for team collaboration. Ci’s flexible subscriptions allow individuals to get started with a free 5 GB account and evolve toward bigger and more professional plans as their portfolio needs grow.

Sony has shifted its archiving products to the Optical Disc Archive (ODA) solution. Just prior to the show, Golf Channel was the first facility worldwide to go live with the Sony ODA-based PetaSite solution as its primary archive. This will eventually replace a Sony LTO-based PetaSite, once all the older media (more than 115,000 hours recorded over 19 years) is fully migrated to disc. The ODA products are based on a cartridge that contains 12 internal Blu-ray discs for a capacity of 1.5 TB of storage (write-once media) per cartridge. At the NAB Show, Sony announced that the second generation of Optical Disc Archive will achieve 3.6 TB capacity, and the third generation will reach 6 TB

Panasonic VariCam 35 camera (without recorder unit)

Panasonic refreshed its venerable VariCam lineup with a new 4K camera/recorder system, the VariCam 35. It uses a newly developed Super 35mm CMOS sensor and records to Panasonic’s AVC-Ultra codecs at up to 120 fps (4K). The camera and recording units are dockable and may be separated to mate the recorder with the new 1080p 2/3” VariCam HS (high speed) model. The camera and recording modules can also be operated in an undocked mode using an umbilical cable, for situations like jib-mounted operation. The camera has four memory card slots: two for expressP2 cards and two for microP2 cards. The high-speed expressP2 card accommodates high frame rate and 4K recording, while the microP2 card is designed for recording HD or 2K at more typical production frame rates. The camera supports advanced workflows with parallel simultaneous 4K/UHD, reference 2K/HD and proxy recordings. Panasonic claims 14 stops of dynamic range with the Super 35mm sensor, as well as support for the ACES color workflow. Panasonic also announced a strategic product development alliance with Codex Digital to deliver a high-speed 4K uncompressed raw recorder for the VariCam 35.

Jacob Dowhy attaches an ARRI Alexa to a Technocrane at the NAB Show. Photo by John Staley.

ARRI used its NAB Show presence to showcase the Amira camera, a sibling to the Alexa that is designed for the documentary shooter. While the two cameras are based on the same sensor, Amira is targeted at the video professional who doesn’t need some of the film-centric features of the Alexa, such as ARRIRAW camera raw output. The benefit is a smaller, lighter package that’s better for single-operator, run-and-gun operation. Amira (available in three configurations based on feature sets) records Log C or Rec. 709 images using ProRes LT, 422, 422 HQ or 444 codecs in 1080p or 2K at up to 200 fps. The recording media is in-camera CFast 2.0 Flash memory cards that support the high data rates. ARRI sought to preserve the Alexa “look,” so Amira offers 14 stops of dynamic range, low noise levels, subtle highlight handling and natural skin tones.

Adobe has been the biggest beneficiary of changes in the NLE landscape. New features were announced for many of the Creative Cloud video products that will roll out in the coming months. Premiere Pro CC gains a number of enhancements. Key new features include Live Text templates, masking and tracking, and Master Clip effects. The latter means that effects applied to a source clip become part of the clip’s attributes when edited to the timeline, rippling down through all instances of the clip. Premiere editors will now be able to export AS-11 (broadcast) and DCP (film) delivery packages.

After Effects CC gains improved keying functionality with new Key Cleaner and Advanced Spill Suppressor effects. Mercury Transmit has been enhanced to allow full preview from After Effects to a different monitor. SpeedGrade CC gains its own Master Clip effect, which enables the colorist to apply looks to multiple clips on the timeline. Scopes and transport controls have also been improved. Media Encoder CC permits AS-11 and DCP package exports. Audition CC adds Dolby support. Story CC and Prelude CC also gained new features.

ConnectFX remains an important part of the Autodesk Smoke toolset.

Adobe’s biggest marketing push was for Adobe Anywhere, its collaborative remote editing solution that currently works with Premiere Pro CC and Prelude CC. Anywhere is built on a central storage and server operation within a facility that handles all media functions. Editors and producers access the media remotely for review and editing, but all media resides at the central location. The system’s servers take care of on-the-fly compositing of Premiere Pro effects in real time and push a proxy resolution image back to the user as a live stream. Adobe has started to roll out Anywhere at a number of facilities. CNN is one that’s received headlines, but smaller operations are also becoming customers and Adobe was promoting their success stories.

Autodesk joins the ranks in transitioning its products to a software rental model. Flame 2015, Flame Premium 2015 and Smoke 2015 will be the last versions of these products that customers can buy as perpetual licenses. Customers who are current on their support subscriptions will get the 2015 update, but any new customers would have to purchase the software outright. After that, Autodesk’s tools will be available exclusively by subscription. Users will rent the software on a monthly or annual payment basis.

The Autodesk Flame family of products has been enhanced for real-time 4K playback performance. Flame Assist, introduced at the show, handles conforming, versioning and archive management.

Interior of Autodesk’s booth at NAB Show

Most readers will be interested to hear about advancements in Smoke 2015. With this update, Smoke lessens its reliance on the Flame UI. Autodesk is positioning Smoke and Flame for different types of users. ConnectFX (the node tree) is still a powerful tool and part of the Smoke toolset. Timeline-based effects have been expanded, so an editor’s complete workflow can be accomplished without leaving the timeline. There’s a new 3D tracker, improved XML workflows and support for Apple’s new Mac Pro and OS X Mavericks. In general, user improvements have focused on making Smoke a better editing tool; however, support for the Sparks plug-in API has been dropped.

Avid Technology started early with its Avid Connect customer event at the Bellagio taking place just before the show. Avid reps didn’t announce any new editing features there (although resolution independence is on the radar and promised soon). Avid took this year’s NAB Show as an opportunity to promote the Avid Everywhere concept. This is a rebranding and repacking effort around existing products. It is presented as a tiered structure built on the Avid MediaCentral Platform. That’s a set of core APIs and tools used throughout Avid products. The new groups in Avid Everywhere are the Artist Suite, Media Suite and Storage Suite. (With the rebranding effort, many existing products get new names.)

Avid took this year’s NAB Show as an opportunity to promote the Avid Everywhere concept. Photo by Mary Ellen Dawley.

The Artist Suite includes all of the content creation tools that plug into the rest. Media Composer, Pro Tools, Sibelius and Avid Motion Graphics, as well as hardware control surfaces, fall into this tier. If you are an individual Media Composer or Pro Tools owner, then much of this doesn’t apply to you; however, part of the Everywhere concept are private and public marketplaces. These marketplace communities could give Pro Tools-based musicians a new outlet to purchase and sell original music.

Avid Media Composer | Cloud (formerly Interplay Sphere) on a Mac laptop

8a Quantel Pablo Rio now supports ProRes encoding.

The bigger news from Avid is the new model for buying or renting the software. Media Composer | Software (version numbers are now gone) may be purchased as a perpetual license or just rented. Larger customers may opt for a floating set of licenses, sold in packs of 20 and 50 seats. The cost of the perpetual license has increased to $1,299, but the price includes one year of tech support and software updates. Subsequent years are renewed at $299/year. If you choose to skip a year of support and then the following year decide to get a Media Composer upgrade, you will have to repurchase the software at full price. This model encourages users to stay current on the software and provides a more predictable stream of revenue for Avid. Additional features, like Symphony, PhraseFind and ScriptSync, are still offered as options. This list now includes NewsCutter, which is sold as an option to Media Composer | Software.

Media Composer | Cloud (formerly Interplay Sphere) was promoted as Avid’s cloud editing solution. Like nearly all cloud editing products, it’s really just a way of remotely connecting to a home base facility. Unlike Adobe Anywhere, Avid Media Composer | Cloud is designed for hybrid local/remote editing, and all of the NLE functions happen on the local machine.

Avid product introductions included Media | Director, which is an ingest module for the Media Suite, and the high-density near-line storage solution ISIS | 2500.

Quantel’s Production Everywhere initiative boils down to greater flexibility with its QTube remote news editing and browsing products.

Quantel is another postproduction powerhouse. Pablo Rio now supports ProRes encoding thanks to a licensing deal with Apple. This makes Rio one of the rare Windows products that enables legal, qualified ProRes encodes. Another example of openness is Quantel’s increased use of third-party hardware. Pablo Rio supports AJA’s Corvid Ultra, and now will also support AJA KONA 3G cards. Quantel’s Marco field editor will support the AJA Io XT and AJA T-Tap modules.

Quantel touted its own “…where” capabilities with Production Everywhere. This initiative boils down to greater flexibility with its QTube remote news editing and browsing products. QTube Edit gets a complete effects toolset and enhanced ingest capabilities.

Quantel’s Production Everywhere initiative boils down to greater flexibility with its QTube remote news editing and browsing products.

Storage is a big part of post. Quantel announced Genetic Engineering 2, a shared storage solution that offers performance beyond 4K requirements. The Pablo PA workflow assist station can now be directly connected to the Gene Pool (media storage), which enables conform and prep tasks to be offloaded from Pablo Rio systems.

Storage vendors large and small were abundant on the show floor. EditShare announced 40 GbE options designed to improve 4K performance. EditShare Storage 7 was highlighted for higher stream counts and total throughput. There is also now an “EditShare ISIS Gateway,” which enables Avid ISIS installations to use EditShare’s Flow (ingest) and Ark (archiving) tools as their asset management/archiving layer. The company also presented an early version of the Lightworks editor for the Mac.

CalDigit T4 R Thunderbolt 2 RAID storage solution

CalDigit brought its new T4 Thunderbolt 2 RAID storage solutions. The hardware is available in two models with various RAID options. The T4 R includes RAID 5 protection, while the T4 J does not. Both products support SSD and HDD drives to give customers the option of maximizing speed or maximizing capacity in a small configuration. For instance, the T4 J in RAID 0 with four SSDs can reach speeds of 1,375 MB/s but maxes at 4 TB. With four HDDs, the capacity can be increased to 16 TB. Both units have hot-swappable drives that can be used with CalDigit’s other solutions.

1 Beyond ThunderMax is a Thunderbolt 2 peripheral for the Mac Pro

1 Beyond, known for innovative storage solutions, this year showcased its ThunderMax expansion system for Apple’s new cylindrical Mac Pros. ThunderMax is an all-in-one Thunderbolt 2 peripheral that can accommodate numerous devices in a single chassis. These can include camera card readers, LTO drives, an internal SSD or HDD RAID, eSATA/10GigE/USB3/FW800 ports, HD-SDI I/O and up to six PCIe slots. It’s the first system with 60 Gb/s from three Thunderbolt 2 input connections.

In an industry where visuals are paramount, what could be more important than decent monitoring?HPhas impressed folks such as DreamWorks Animation with its DreamColor series. Until now, these displays have been rather pricey. The new Z27x (27”, 2560 x 1440 resolution) is a 10-bit professional display (1000:1 contrast) that receives up to a 4K input and either scales the signal to the display’s native resolution or presents a cropped image with a 1:1 pixel relationship. It features 99 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 spec and 100 percent of sRGB and Adobe RGB. The Z24x (24”, 1920 x 1200 resolution) is designed for HD video applications, with 100 percent coverage of sRGB and BT.709, and 99 percent of Adobe RGB. MSRP is $1,499 and $599, respectively.

Although many thought this year would be pretty uneventful, in the end there was quite a lot to see at the NAB Show—and I’ve only just scratched the surface.  

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