Tuesday, April 13, 2010

DV Student Blog: Notes from NAB, Day 1

by Monica Thies

Ahh…NAB Show Day #1…so much to talk about…

First, NAB stands for National Association of Broadcasters, the “show” part meaning it is the largest convention the association puts on and includes every gadget, gizmo, software, hardware, bells and whistles ever needed for radio or television production in any phase. Although typically marketed towards news and broadcasting, a lot of the technology seen is intuition to where film is taking us as a society and how we’re getting there. This is my third year at this show, and by now I have established “regular stops.” Today was my day out on the floor, and I managed to hit up “The Big A’s” (Adobe, Autodesk and Avid) along with the ever-favorite Sony, Panasonic and Canon. I’ll discuss a little bit about what is going on with each of these further along in this post. Reading carefully “between the lines” of the broadcast market, the other software and hardware that is more commonly used at our school can be seen.

Each year, there is always a “big push” or “fad” that every vendor, every company and every person through the company is promoting so heavily its beyond obvious. Last year was High Def and the big switch over to HD alongside with the beginnings of 3D technology. This year, I walked into the convention center and the first thing I see is the giant Evertz booth (a broadcasting company that does mostly routing and audio for news broadcasting) with the slogan of “Real 3D solutions.” 3D is the "it" thing this year. The booth next to it, Miranda (similar to Evertz) was heavily pushing 3D as well, and how they are developing a way to have a “stereoscopic signal” in order to broadcast 3D (hmm... 3D news soon?) Both Evertz and Miranda had 3D cameras on display, a rig created out of two different cameras one horizontal in the normal position, the other, vertical pointing downwards, perpendicular with the first camera, wired together, one big lens added on and thrown on a tripod. I found this absolutely fascinating until I wandered (with Paul’s advice) over towards the Panasonic booth (shall I say area? They took up a lot of space).

At the Panasonic area, they had not just a stereoscopic 3D camera, but it was a twin lens 3D camera to create real 3D without needing to point one camera down and one camera in a normal direction. It was a 3D camera that was about as portable as the cameras at school. This was the Panasonic AG-3DA1 camera. The 3D coming out of the camera was phenomenal. It will be the camera that pushes us into the pro-sumer level of 3D movies.

Over at Canon, they had an interesting new handheld camera at a pro-sumer level. Smaller than our resident XL-H1’s and XL-2 camera’s but just as powerful, if not more powerful. It is the Canon XF-305. It is a “better than HD” resolution camera with compact flash storage. It can hold multiple CF cards, and when one is full, will flip seamlessly to the other CF storage card without skipping a frame (very convenient for those long shoots). My favorite part was the LCD viewing screen onboard the camera, it was flipped inside the handle for portability, and had wonderful resolution, as well as being able to flip out on both the left and right side of the camera.

We practically ran into Sony, in fact, you couldn’t miss it. Sony takes up its own region in the conference central hall (by the way, Vegas has one of the biggest conference centers in the nation, so taking up its own region is pretty big) Sony was a complete playground. With a good half of it devoted to awing people with a massive, absolutely massive, 3D LED TV. No surprise that they had a 3D LED TV, but I will say this for it, it is incredible. They played pieces of a football game, and it was the same as standing on the field next to my dad at a Seahawks game. It was exactly like being right there. They played an underwater in Hawaii series of clips, it was just like diving off the beach of Maui all over again. The glasses we were given to use were the basic Real 3D glasses, and I decided they are not that bulky at all. Rather they are light weight and do not affect your vision when not looking at a 3D screen. If I have to walk around in glasses like that for the rest of my life in order to continually watch football as though I’m standing on the sideline, it may be worth the fashion no-no.

While over at the Sony booth (playground) there was a 3D truck, a mobile broadcasting truck to be able to broadcast in 3D, didn’t make it in though, there was a long line of men from Japan anxious to see. Of course, there was the Sony Vegas area (skipped that, not worth my time) and the camera booths showing the camera quality. There were two 3D cameras that Sony was promoting, neither a twin lens one such as the Panasonic camera. This I was surprised about. I would think that a company who is so heavily promoting their new 3D LED television would have a camera that is as high tech as the television itself. Not that having two cameras perpendicular isn’t high tech, obviously more than I came up with, just surprised they did not have the twin lens camera at least in development as competitor Panasonic does.

Sony had multiple designs of their display monitors up. It amazes me how cheap LCD monitors now are; yet our school still relies on CRT monitors. The LCD ones are nice and lightweight, and even relatively low cost now. The LCD monitors can show us more clarity when shooting HD video. It is also interesting to me how analog anything is practically illegal to mention at NAB, everything is digital. Even broadcasting frequency spectrum has gone 100% digital and the numbers lowered to adapt to our Digital Age.

And finally…the Triple A’s. The big dogs of what we do in our Digital Video Program at school. The guru’s who make the software so we can make it happen. The…okay enough raging about how “A”-mazing (ha.ha.ha …not.) are. Let us start with Avid. Avid is up to Media Composer 5, I did not, however, manage to make it to a presentation today on the Avid editing software, though did see the interface being quite pretty. They have released new Mojo boxes and Digiboards to run with the Media Composer Software (all locked up in a nice case so I couldn’t examine either). The entire series is referred to as “Avid Nitrix DX” I will be curious to see tomorrow what has changed about it all. I can already guess it is a 64 bit native software and pro tools has seamless integration (make a change in Pro Tools, makes the change in Avid without extra hoops to jump through).

Autodesk. Surprisingly, they were not focusing on just Lustre (color correction) as normal. They were focusing on the usability and how to use, Smoke (Autodesk’s version of After Effects…the new Combustion). On a Mac. Very specifically. On a Mac. My favorite feature after watching part of a demonstration on Smoke was the flow chart organization. It is similar to the old Combustion flowchart setup, but I feel as though this one was easier to understand than when I learned Combustion. The keying features were nice, but then again they had a lot of the effects preset so he could easily demonstrate what the software can do. (Of course maybe they come preset in the software too…)

The other demonstration going on at the time was about 3DS Max 2011. Now I’m not a big 3DS Max user, in fact I have used it very minimally and not to much success. The feature he was really showing off though was the ability to texture right within Max, and how you could begin a texture wrap in Max, export and link the file to Photoshop, continue it in Photoshop and it would make the change right there in the Max texture wrap as well, and instantly apply it to the model. (Just a side note to everyone, ALL and I mean ALL design users, from Autodesk and Adobe were using tablets only, nothing else. They were incredible with the tablets too, and when asked one said he is “faster with a tablet than with a mouse and keyboard anyways”).

Annnnd finally…Adobe. With the release of their Creative Suite 5 today, (and if you bought it on the floor today you were eligible to win an Nvidia Quadro FX 4800 and a free gift with purchase…OoOo). The CS5 Suite is native 64 bit design. This is supposedly one of the biggest changes made to the software. Adobe claims that this will make “HD just as fast as SD”. Adobe has made collaborating between multiple software’s easier. Not just between Adobe software’s (that was always easy) but collaborating footage and images between Avid, Final Cut Pro and of course, Premier Pro. Adobe has partnered with CNN to create an easier to use workspace for “journalism” and “news editing”. Meaning for us moviemakers that the interface will be very easy to use (if it wasn’t already before….) In CS5, they have decoupled the rendering capabilities, meaning a project can be created on one machine, but sent to another to render instead. This would be extremely useful for us if we wanted to set render queues up on 2-4 reliable machines and not use the entire DV Lab plus three classrooms hoping ten machines will actually finish renders and not crash halfway through. CS5 looks to be a good upgrade but not necessary if 64 Bit systems are not being used.

Blackberries, iPhones, Androids, Oh NO!!! Smartphones smartphones smartphones! They are everywhere! Everyone is on one all the time! It is actually incredible the amount of people who are on a smart phone. Streambox, a media encoding/decoding to help stream mobile media, even now has an iPhone app to stream video back to the “station” and provide on the go footage for news stories. Next up, live shots from the phone, you don’t even need a camera anymore!

And last but not least....one of the vendors, Harris, had this sign above their booth…I thought it was amusing due to the wording, which includes one of our school’s absolute favorite words…

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